Jeffrey Heller
March 31, 2011 - 12:00am

A Palestinian engineer under arrest in Israel was allowed on Thursday to speak publicly for the first time since his alleged abduction from Ukraine, saying he knew nothing about an Israeli soldier held by Hamas in Gaza.

Lawyers for Dirar Abu Sisi had accused Israel of trying to concoct charges against the Gaza resident, linking his arrest to efforts to gather intelligence on the enclave's Hamas rulers and Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, seized by militants in 2006.

"They kidnapped me from Ukraine," Abu Sisi said, without identifying his abductors. His family has accused Israel's Mossad intelligence service of grabbing him.

"I don't know anything about Shalit," Abu Sisi, wearing brown prison garb and addressing television cameras and reporters, said in English at the opening of a remand hearing in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv.

Prosecutors told the court, which has allowed only a few details to be reported about the case, that an indictment would be filed next week. One of Abu Sisi's lawyers, Tal Linoi, said his client, who Israel alleges belongs to Hamas, had committed no crime.

Relatives of Abu Sisi, an engineer and manager of the main power plant in Gaza, say he was seized in February by Israeli agents while aboard a train in Ukraine. Ukrainian authorities say the disappearance is under investigation.

Abu Sisi's wife is Ukrainian and she said he had gone to Ukraine to apply for citizenship and move the family there.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Abu Sisi "is a Hamas man" and had provided valuable information, which the Israeli leader did not specify. Sources in Gaza have said he was not known to have political affiliations to Hamas.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak, speaking on Israel Radio while the hearing was under way, said Abu Sisi "did not guard (Shalit) or anything like that, but he is a person who has serious information about what is going on inside Hamas".

In Kiev, Mohammed al-Assad, the Palestinian envoy in Ukraine, told a news conference that Abu Sisi "was not a member of any organisation".

Describing Abu Sisi's disappearance as a "terrible act of piracy", Assad urged Ukrainian authorities to put pressure on Israel to ensure his safe return to Ukraine.

"At the moment there is no proof that Mossad (Israeli intelligence service) officials seized him, but the fact is that he is there (in Israel)," Assad said. "We consider his disappearance and re-location ... as an international crime for which someone must bear responsibility."


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