Hamas may try Fatah general in absentia

Warrant gives Abu Shabak 10 days to hand himself over to the Hamas security forces in Gaza City.

gaza 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
In the first case of its kind, a Hamas "security court" in the Gaza Strip has issued a warrant for the arrest of Gen. Rashid Abu Shabak, the former commander of the Palestinian Authority's Preventive Security Service. The warrant gives Abu Shabak 10 days to hand himself over to the Hamas security forces in Gaza City or face being tried in absentia. The court ruled that Abu Shabak should be arrested for misusing public funds and abusing his powers. Abu Shabak, who was one of the most powerful Fatah security commanders in the Gaza Strip prior to Hamas's takeover of the area in June 2007, has since been living in Cairo together with a number of his colleagues who also fled to Egypt. The court also issued a similar ultimatum to Maj. Manhal Arafat, a top Fatah operative and son of Maj.-Gen. Musa Arafat, the PA Military Intelligence chief who was assassinated in Gaza City three years ago. The Hamas court warned the two men that failure to comply with its rulings would result in the confiscation of all their properties and money. The court appealed to the public to assist in bringing the two men to trial and warned that anyone who helps them escape would be severely punished. Fatah officials said they believed the move was aimed at paving the way for Hamas to confiscate the homes and land of dozens of Palestinian political and security officials who have fled the Gaza Strip. Many of these officials left behind businesses, land and villas in the Strip. At least 400 Palestinians, including many security officers and top political figures, fled Gaza shortly before the Hamas "coup" last year. Fatah spokesman Fahmi al-Za'areer described the court decision as "silly" and warned Hamas against seizing the property of Palestinians who used to live in the Gaza Strip. "Hamas is trying through this so-called legal proceeding to legitimize its human rights violations and assaults on the freedom of expression," Za'areer said. "They are using false claims to justify laying their hands on the property of the residents." The Fatah spokesman warned that the PA would not hesitate to take similar measures against Hamas members in the West Bank if the Islamist movement confiscates the property of Fatah officials. Meanwhile, a number of Palestinian factions have launched an initiative to persuade Hamas and Fatah to resume talks on ways of ending their power struggle. The initiative calls for the immediate release of all those who were detained by Hamas and Fatah in the past few weeks for "political reasons." Hamas says the Fatah-dominated PA security forces have arrested at least 300 of its supporters over the past three weeks. Fatah has accused Hamas of arresting more than 400 of its members and supporters in the Gaza Strip during the same period. Kayed al-Ghul, a representative of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine - one of the groups involved in the mediation efforts - announced over the weekend that Hamas and Fatah had agreed to participate in a "joint national committee" to discuss the release of all those who were detained for political reasons. "Our goal is to empty the Hamas and Fatah jails of all the detainees," Ghul said after meeting separately with representatives of the rival parties in the Gaza Strip. He said that the next step would be to stop the mutual attacks in the media controlled by Hamas and Fatah. Ghul added that efforts were under way to bring Hamas and Fatah representatives to Cairo for further talks on ending the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The initiative also calls for the formation of an interim national unity government that would be entrusted with preparing for new PA presidential and parliamentary elections on an agreed date. The Peoples (Communist) Party, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are also involved in the mediation efforts.