Isabel Kershner
The New York Times
April 4, 2011 - 12:00am

Israel on Monday handed down an indictment against Dirar Abu Sisi, the Gaza engineer who vanished from a train in Ukraine in mid-February, then surfaced in an Israeli prison. He stands accused of developing rockets and missiles on behalf of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, for use against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

In a rare public appearance in court last week, Mr. Sisi, 42, told reporters that he had been kidnapped “for no reason.” His relatives, who said they believed that he had been snatched by Mossad agents, insisted that his arrest was a mistake.

But on Monday, Mr. Sisi, the seemingly quiet operator of the Gaza power plant was indicted on charges of activity in a terrorist organization, on hundreds of counts of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and on charges related to the production of weaponry.

Smadar Ben-Natan, Mr. Sisi’s Israeli lawyer, told Israel Radio that this was an “inflated, unrealistic indictment that is only meant to justify what has been done to Mr. Sisi.”

Another lawyer for Mr. Sisi, Tal Linoi, told the radio station that while their client “does know various figures who are apparently affiliated with Hamas, he knows them as a senior engineer who fills a pivotal position in Gaza’s civilian infrastructure,” in a reference to the power plant.

The military wing of Hamas denied that Mr. Sisi was a member. Abu Obaida, spokesman for the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the organization, said, “These accusations have no basis of truth, and we deny all of them, in general and in specifics.”

The case, which the court has ordered the participants not to discuss, has been shrouded in mystery for weeks. The 15-page indictment made no mention of the circumstances of Mr. Sisi’s capture. But it described his suspected activities in rich detail.

It said Mr. Sisi received his doctorate in electrical engineering in the 1990s from the Kharkov Military Engineering Academy in Kharkov, Ukraine, where he studied under a professor who was an expert in Scud missile control systems. Although Mr. Sisi was engaged in civilian studies, he attended lectures and classes at the military academy where he acquired “extensive knowledge in missile development, control systems, propulsion and stabilization,” the indictment said. After he returned to Gaza, it said, he became an employee of the Gaza electricity company, and in 2002 secretly joined Hamas.

Mr. Sisi is said to have been responsible for, among other things, improving the Qassam rockets with better electronics and materials, expanding their range to 12 miles from 4.

Israel noted that hundreds of rockets were fired out of Gaza with the intention of killing Israeli civilians. Israel also said that Mr. Sisi helped develop the Yassin rocket, designed to pierce tanks, and that in 2008 he began to develop a mortar shell designed to penetrate armored vehicles, even though the house where they were being developed was shelled twice by the Israeli military.

In 2009, the indictment says, Mr. Sisi was asked by Hamas to translate documents about Russian shoulder-launched antiaircraft missiles from Russian to Arabic. And at the end of January 2009, after Israel’s devastating, three-week military offensive against Hamas in Gaza, the group’s military leaders asked Mr. Sisi to help set up a Hamas military academy.

Many of the Hamas associates of Mr. Sisi have since been killed, their houses bombed by the Israeli military.

Israel, like the United States and the European Union, designates Hamas a terrorist organization. Hamas, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and took full control of Gaza in 2007 after a brief factional war, is sworn to Israel’s destruction, though it is currently observing a fragile cease-fire with Israel.

Israeli officials say that Hamas now has imported rockets that can reach more than 40 miles, to the outskirts of Tel Aviv.


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