Family of Palestinian found dead in Turkish prison after UAE spying charges dismiss suicide claim

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Zaki’s son, Yusuf, told Al-Arabiya that there should be an international commission to investigate his father’s death. (Al-Arabiya screengrab)
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Zaki Mubarak Hassan had been found hanging in his cell in Silivri prison on Sunday. (AFP/File)
Updated 29 April 2019

Family of Palestinian found dead in Turkish prison after UAE spying charges dismiss suicide claim

  • Turkish prosecutor says Zaki Mubarak Hassan killed himself in an Istanbul prison cell on Sunday 
  • Family call for international investigation into his death and dismiss spying charges

AMMAN: The family of a Palestinian man found dead in prison after being accused of spying for the UAE have dismissed Turkish claims that he committed suicide.

The Istanbul prosecutor’s office said Monday that Zaki Mubarak Hassan had been found hanging in his cell in Silivri prison on Sunday.

But his brother, Zakeria, told Arab News that they did not believe he had killed himself and called for an “international investigation.”

Zaki was one of two suspects charged earlier this month with international, political and military espionage, Reuters reported.

The pair were arrested on April 19 and had confessed to spying on Arab nationals for the UAE, a senior Turkish official said at the time.

The prosecutor’s statement on Monday said an investigation has been launched and the Istanbul forensics institute has carried out an autopsy. 

But Zakaria challenged the Turkish government to produce video footage from the cell to prove how his brother died.

“I don't trust the Turkish government nor do I trust the Palestinian ambassador (to Turkey),” Zakaria told Arab News from his home in Bulgaria. “I want an international investigation of what happened to him.

“My brother is innocent and our lawyers told us he would be released. The Turkish government didn't want that because they didn’t want to show that they made a mistake.”

Zakaria said his brother, who had nine children, went to Turkey for business and to make money for his family. He said Zaki’s lawyer told him they had met on Friday and expected him to be released this week.

Turkey, he said, “cared more for its political interests rather than justice.”

He said he had informed the Palestinian ambassador in Ankara of his brother’s disappearance from a restaurant in Istanbul before his arrest was announced, but that the embassy stopped taking his calls.

Zaki’s son, Yusuf, told Al-Arabiya that there should be an international commission to investigate his father’s death.

“I want the creation of a specialized medical committee, including a trusted Palestinian doctor who can go there and do the autopsy on my father’s corpse in order to find the truth himself,” he said.

Relations between Turkey and Gulf allies, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, deteriorated after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October.


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”