Sunday, January 25, 2009
Hamas executes former B'tselem field worker
KHALED ABU TOAMEH
A Palestinian human rights activist and journalist who used to work for the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem has been executed by Hamas on charges of "collaboration" with Israel, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said over the weekend. They identified the man as Haidar Ghanem, 46, of Rafah.
They pointed out that Ghanem, who was a field researcher for B'Tselem, had been sentenced to death by a Palestinian Authority court in 2002 after being found guilty of passing on information to Israel that later resulted in the elimination of Fatah gunmen.
Ghanem, according to the Palestinians, was among dozens of suspected "collaborators" who were executed by Hamas during Operation Cast Lead.
Fatah officials in Ramallah claimed that many of the alleged collaborators were in fact Fatah members who had been rounded up by Hamas militiamen during the war. They said that Ghanem was executed on January 7 in Rafah.
Although he was sentenced to death by firing squad seven years ago, former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, refrained from carrying out the sentence because of pressure from human rights groups and journalists.
The PA state security court had sentenced Ghanem, a father of two, after holding only two brief sessions. He was convicted of helping Israel kill four Fatah activists in Rafah.
Ghanem pleaded guilty to collaborating, but denied responsibility for the killings. He told the court that he did not know that Israel would use the information to kill the activists.
Prosecutor Wael Zakut told the court Ghanem was recruited as an informer in 1996. He said he had been asked to monitor the movements of Fatah members Jamal Abdel Razek, Awni Dahir, Sami Abu Laban, and Nael Liddawi.
The prosecutor claimed the IDF killed them 15 minutes after Ghanem tipped off the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) about the location of their car. An undercover IDF unit intercepted the car, killing all four, he added.
The court was told by PA security officers that the accused had opened a press office in Rafah that was supplying the Shin Bet with information about Fatah activists. Ghanem was paid a monthly sum for his "press services."
The officers claimed that Ghanem had supplied Israel with reports on the movements of PA security personnel and names of Palestinians involved in terror attacks. Among other things, Ghanem prepared reports on the general mood in the Gaza Strip, the status of the PA, and details on the salaries of its employees.
The officer told the court that Ghanem's Shin Bet handlers had given him permission to work as a field researcher with B'Tselem to facilitate his mission and provide a cover for his espionage activities.
Ghanem told the court that he had confessed of his own free will because he had hoped to work as a double agent. He admitted that he had served as an informer, but said he did not watch the movements of the Fatah fugitives with the purpose of killing them.