Jailed Gazan engineer denies any connection to captive IDF soldier

16:45, April 01, 2011      

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Palestinian engineer Dirar Abu Sisi, currently held in an Israeli jail, Thursday denied having any knowledge of the fate of Gilad Shalit, an Israel Defense Forces soldier held captive by Hamas since 2006.

Moments before a court hearing regarding an extension of his arrest began, Abu Sisi said, "I don't know anything about Shalit and I have no connection to him. I'm an engineer."

Abu Sisi, 42, deputy director of Gaza Strip's sole electric power plant, was reported missing under unknown circumstances on Feb. 19 while boarding a train in Ukraine.

The mystery surrounding his disappearance cleared a month later, after an Israeli court ordered the partial lifting of gag order and confirmed that he is being held for questioning by the country 's security services.

All other details of the case will be revealed when the gag order expires on April 17. Israeli authorities plan to file an indictment against Abu Sisi next week.

German weekly Der Spiegel earlier this week published a report suggesting that Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence agency, abducted Abu Sisi in Ukraine, believing that he holds important information about Shalit's whereabouts.

The abduction was an operation conducted jointly by Mossad and Ukraine's secret services, said the report, which quoted anonymous Western intelligence sources.

Smadar Ben-Natan, the Israeli attorney representing Abu Sisi, confirmed Wednesday that her client was asked about Shalit.

"Was that the reason behind the abduction? Most likely yes," Ben-Natan said, according to daily Yedioth Aronoth. "He was asked about Shalit from the very first moment. Does he know anything? The answer is no."

In a first comment by an Israeli official on the affair, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening said Abu Sisi is a member of Hamas held legally in Israeli detention.

"He gave valuable information," Netanyahu said in a live interview to YouTube.

The prime minister would not comment on whether the abduction was connected to Shalit.

The engineer's relatives continue to maintain he is not a militant affiliated with Hamas.

In interviews with foreign media outlets in recent weeks, Abu Sisi's wife Veronika said she was convinced that her husband's job was behind his disappearance, claiming that the Gaza power plant is "an object" that Israel wants to disable.

On Wednesday, she told Hebrew daily Ma'ariv that reports connecting her husband to the captive Israeli soldier are " unsubstantiated."

"I know him better than anyone else. He is not involved in such things," she said.

Source: Xinhua
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