Fuad Shubaki, the chief financial officer of the Palestinian Authority who is currently being held in a Jericho jail, said yesterday that he is "extremely disappointed" with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and the PA for failing to keep their promise to release him.
Shubaki has been implicated in the Karine A affair. The ship was carrying 50 tons of weaponry to the PA when it was captured by IDF naval commandos in January.
Shubaki, 60, who holds the rank of general, gave The Jerusalem Post his first interview since he was accused of involvement.
Shubaki, a close associate and confidant of Arafat, was transferred to Jericho last May as part of a deal by which Israel lifted its siege of Arafat's compound in Ramallah. He is being held together with the assassins of tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi and PFLP secretary-general Ahmed Sa'adat.
He said he agreed to go to Jericho at Arafat's request so that the IDF would pull out of the compound. 'I was prepared to make the sacrifice for the sake of the 'big brother' [Arafat] and that's why I agreed to leave Ramallah,' he said.
"I was told that I would stay in the PA's compound in Jericho as Arafat's guest. No one told me that I would be held in prison with American and British wardens. 'I've been abandoned by Arafat and the PA. Arafat himself has said in an interview with al Jazeera television that I'm innocent. Arafat also declared that he would release me immediately after the PA cabinet meeting in May. So what am I doing here? How come I've never been put on trial? Where is the evidence against me?"
"There isn't even one piece of written paper that states why I'm here in Jericho. The prison authorities don't have a file on me, and no one here even knows what my ID number is. I want to ask President Arafat: Under what law are you keeping me in prison? Am I here under your protection because I'm wanted by Israel?"
Shubaki denied Israeli allegations that he had financed the Karine A, insisting he knows nothing about the case. He said the whole affair is a 'conspiracy' targeting 'the big man.' He said he had not spoken to Arafat since he was moved to Jericho.
He said he had never visited Iran or Syria - the two countries that are believed to have assisted in the attempt to smuggle the weapons.
"The Israelis seized my passport when they raided my office in the mukata (compound) in Ramallah and they can see that I hadn't entered Iran or Syria,' he said. 'I'm even wanted by the Syrian authorities. But I don't deny that I did visit Iraq, Libya, and Yemen as part of my job to pay members of our armed forces and PLO workers who are still in these countries. We have many embassies all over the world, and it's my job to pay the workers. Now that I'm in prison, thousands of people are not getting their salaries. Many of the PA's institutions could collapse or go bankrupt if they continue to hold me here."
Shubaki said the fact that he visited Iraq and Libya several times is not significant, because the two countries were never involved in sending weapons to the Palestinian areas, unlike Jordan and Egypt.
He said that because he is wanted in Syria, he had to travel to Iraq through Jordan.
"[Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon said in the Knesset that I had visited Iran, Syria, and Russia to prepare the ship, and I tell him that this is completely untrue,' he said.
'The Israelis seized all the documents in my office and other PA ministries and institutions, and not a single one proves that I was behind the Karine A. I challenge anyone to prove that I paid even one dollar. My passport, which is now in Israeli hands, is the biggest proof that I'm innocent."
Shubaki said he is being held in 'full isolation'
"This is not a Palestinian prison,' he complained. 'There are about 20 American and British wardens who are working closely with Israel."
Asked if he would be prepared to leave the country in return for his release, Shubaki replied: 'Why should I leave? If there is anything against me, why not put me on trial.'
He said he has 'excellent relations' with many Israelis, especially businessmen. 'You can ask many banks and businessmen about me,' he said. 'I used to help many of them.' He refused to elaborate.
Shubaki's lawyer, Hussein Shoukhi, told the Post he is considering filing a suit against Britain and the US in an international court because they are responsible for his client's incarceration.
'Shubaki was never tried and therefore his detention is illegal,' he said. 'These countries are talking about reforms in the PA, and at the same time they are holding someone in prison without trial.'
He accused the British and American supervisors of humiliating Palestinians who want to visit the prison. 'They are searching everyone, even senior officials, and asking too many questions,' he said. "They have no right to be there in the first place."
He noted that a commission of inquiry established by Arafat shortly after the ship was seized found that Shubaki was not involved. 'The commission recommended that General Shubaki be released, but the PA has ignored its findings.'
The IDF says that computer files and other documents regarding arms and ammunition inventories (dated 1999) found in Shubaki's office detail weapons which are to be found in PA facilities. One document clearly mentions seven RPG-7 launchers and 11 rockets for them. In addition, various types of heavy machine guns which are also prohibited by the agreements are in a storage depot.
Another document is an approval for the dispatch of RPG-7 anti-tank launchers from PA facilities to the PA's security forces. The approval was given in November 2001, on official paper of the financial directorate headed by Shubaki.
The person receiving the approval was the officer responsible for administration and arms in the office of Haj Ismail Zarzur, head of the General Security Directorate and commander of the National Security Forces in the West Bank.