[The meeting described herein between Former Prisoner of Zion Ida Nudel and the Vatican ambassador Msgr. Pietro Sambi was facilitated by Israel Resource News Agency, whose bureau chief, David Bedein, took part in the meeting]

Ex-Soviet dissident tries to save accused Palestinian spy

By The Associated Press

Former Soviet dissident Ida Nudel, who survived four years of Siberian exile and waged a 16-year fight to reach Israel, embarked Wednesday on a new struggle – to save a Palestinian accused of spying for Israel from execution by Palestinian authorities.

Nudel on Wednesday urged the Vatican’s representative to the Holy Land, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, to intervene in the Palestinian man’s case. “He didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no,” Nudel said in Russian-accented Hebrew as she left the Vatican’s offices on the Mount of Olives.

Dozens of suspected Palestinian collaborators have been lynched by mobs, hanged and executed by firing squad during two years of conflict with Israel. Palestinians say the collaborators have helped Israel find leading militants and target them for assassination.

Nudel hopes international pressure might help the accused collaborator, Akram Azzatma, 23, get a fair trial in a Palestinian court and save him from execution. Azzatma, a college student in the Gaza Strip, was arrested July 29 by Palestinian police. He confessed to helping Israeli forces keep tabs on Salah Shehadeh, founder of the military wing of the militant Islamic group Hamas, just before an IAF warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on the Hamas leader’s apartment, killing him.

Speaking to reporters last week, Azzatma confessed to informing Israeli agents about the Hamas leader’s whereabouts and said others were also involved. He said he was tricked into working with the Israelis two years ago.

Azzatma said he heard the thunderous blast of the F-16 fighter jet dropping its load 20 minutes after telling his Israeli contact by phone that Shehadeh’s car had arrived home. “I feel guilty and I deserve any punishment for this crime,” he told reporters in a prison interview in Gaza.

In Jerusalem on Wednesday, an Israeli lawyer and Nudel, presented the case to the Vatican and asked for church intervention. “I hope that maybe our efforts will help to save this young fellow,” Nudel said.

Nudel, a slight, gray-haired woman, was exiled to Siberia for four years in the late 1970s for hanging protest banners from her apartment balcony. One of them read: “KGB, Give Me My Visa.” She was a leading figure among Soviet Jews seeking to escape Soviet persecution and emigrate to Israel. Her efforts earned her the nickname the “Guardian Angel.” She finally came to Israel in 1987.