[Ppnews] Israeli Shin Bet agent testifies no torture against Salah

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 27 08:46:53 EDT 2006

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Salah trial questions his role in burial

October 27, 2006
By Chris Hack Staff writer

Day after day during a weekslong interrogation of Mohammed Salah in 
1993, Israeli intelligence agents kept posing the same question: Did 
he really know where the body of a murdered Israeli soldier was buried?

Salah insisted he did and tried to use the hidden corpse as a 
bargaining chip, according to federal court testimony Thursday.

Salah, a Bridgeview resident, ultimately spent nearly five years in 
an Israeli prison after his arrest there and is now on trial in U.S. 
District Court in Chicago, accused of being a high-ranking operative 
of the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

While Salah's information did not lead to finding the body, his 
directions turned out to be reasonably accurate when it was 
discovered years later, prosecutors said. They contend that Salah's 
knowledge about the missing body and his attempt to bargain to aid 
Hamas is proof of his high-ranking status in Hamas at that time.

A retired member of Israel's Shin Bet security service, testifying 
for the U.S. government under the pseudonym Nadav, on Thursday agreed 
with that conclusion. Nadav led a two-month interrogation of Salah 
when he was being held in a military prison in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

"It reinforced the fact that his position was quite senior," Nadav 
testified. "Only a senior person would have had permission to carry 
on negotiations about the location of a body."

Salah claims he was tortured during the interrogation into making 
incriminating statements, but prosecutors say he was treated well.

Nadav said that early in the questioning of Salah, he offered to lead 
authorities to the body of a soldier who had been kidnapped and 
killed by Hamas gunmen in 1989. Recovery of bodies for religious 
burial is especially important in the Jewish faith.

"He said it was a humane act with the intention of improving 
relations between Jews and Arabs and also between Jews and Hamas," 
Nadav said of Salah's offer.

But Salah also wanted something in return. He demanded the release of 
an imprisoned Hamas founder, but the Israelis rejected that. 
Eventually, Salah's interrogators agreed to instead release a group 
of female Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier's body.

Nadav testified that Salah said he had a map detailing the body's 
location at his Bridgeview home. But when his wife in phone calls 
said she couldn't find it, Salah drew his own map from memory.

Despite two all-night searches -- with Israeli soldiers digging while 
Salah and Nadav watched from a car -- the body wasn't found, Nadav said.

Prosecutors asked Nadav to review a log documenting each of Salah's 
interrogation sessions -- often three per day, interspersed at all 
times of the day and night and sometimes lasting six hours or more.

Salah was questioned about different aspects of his alleged Hamas 
connections, but talk almost always returned to the subject of the 
missing body and how the Israelis could find it, Nadav testified.

When the soldier's body turned up years later, Salah's directions 
were fairly accurate, prosecutors said, adding that the body was 
perhaps not initially found because of confusion about a highway exit 
that had been renamed after the kidnapping.

Chris Hack may be reached at 
<mailto:chack at dailysouthtown.com>chack at dailysouthtown.com or (708) 633-5984.

Agent's testimony contradicts Salah's torture claims

October 26, 2006
By Chris Hack Staff writer

Testifying Wednesday under a fake name in a courtroom cleared of 
spectators, a retired Israeli intelligence agent recalled his first 
meeting with Bridgeview resident Mohammed Salah in an interrogation 
room 13 years ago.

"When I started talking to him, I realized I was dealing with a very 
polite person," the agent known only as "Nadav" said. "In the 
beginning, it was a good relationship, and over the course of the 
interviews, it grew into a close relationship."

The rosy description of an interrogation period that lasted nearly 
two months after Salah's arrest at an Israeli checkpoint stands in 
stark contrast to his claims of near-constant torture at the hands of 
Israeli agents.

Defense attorneys contend that a series of damaging statements Salah 
gave the agents resulted from nasty physical and psychological 
interrogation tactics, but federal prosecutors insist that he was 
treated fairly.

Salah, an American citizen, is being tried on federal charges that he 
served as an operative of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which 
is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. He 
spent nearly five years in an Israeli prison after his arrest there 
and now faces many of the same Hamas allegations in the charges here.

Through a Hebrew interpreter, Nadav explained that in 1993 he was an 
agent of Israel's secretive Shin Bet security service, assigned to an 
eight-man interrogation team at a military prison in the West Bank 
city of Ramallah. He said Salah initially lied about his activities 
in the region, and that relentless questioning was necessary to 
unravel his Hamas ties.

"If we get incorrect information, then terrorist attacks do take 
place," Nadav said. "And innocent people are killed."

The Salah case marks the first time that Israeli intelligence agents 
have testified on U.S. soil, and extraordinary security measures are 
in place to keep their identities secret. Prosecutors have said 
terrorists overseas have offered cash bounties for the identities of 
Shin Bet agents.

With Salah's courtroom emptied of everyone but the defendants, 
lawyers and jurors, Nadav's faceless voice was piped into a separate 
room set aside for the public. Nadav and other Israeli agents 
expected to testify have been allowed by U.S. District Judge Amy St. 
Eve to wear "light disguise" when they appear before the jury and to 
use a private courthouse entrance to come and go.

Nadav said Salah admitted distributing several hundred thousand 
dollars to Hamas leaders in the Occupied Territories during his 1993 
trip, but initially lied about where the money came from. Salah 
eventually said funds were wired to his Chicago bank by longtime 
Hamas leader Mousa Marzook, and that he moved the cash through a 
Ramallah money-changer for distribution, Nadav said.

Marzook, now the deputy political chief of Hamas, is charged in this 
case along with Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar, a former professor who 
now lives in Virginia. Marzook is a fugitive residing in Syria.

Salah doesn't deny delivering money to Hamas officials but insists it 
was meant to go toward the group's humanitarian work in the 
impoverished Occupied Territories.

Chris Hack may be reached at 
<mailto:chack at dailysouthtown.com>chack at dailysouthtown.com or (708) 633-5984.

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