[Please refer to this article in which we reported on the efforts to save this young man from execution.]
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – A Palestinian student accused of collaborating for Israel was found dead in a garbage dump in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. He had been in the custody of the Palestinian Authority police.
Akram Mohammed al-Zatma, 22, was arrested on August 8 for allegedly helping Israel assassinate Hamas founder and leader Salah Shehade and Fatah Tanzim leader Jihad al-Omarayan.
The case gained some international notoriety when Israeli lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and others spearheaded a campaign on al-Zatma’s behalf, appealing to the Vatican to intervene.
Monsignor Pietro Sambi, head of the Apostolic Delegation, the equivalent of the Vatican’s Embassy in Jerusalem said he had intervened on behalf of al-Zatma.
“I intervened,” Sambi told CNSNews.com in a brief telephone interview. “I won’t go into details [about the intervention]. I am very sad that the result has not been positive.”
Asked by al-Zatma’s family to represent him, Darshan-Leitner appealed to Palestinian Justice Minister Ibrahim Abu Daghmeh for the right to represent her client in the PA court. She never received a reply from Abu Daghmeh, she said.
Darshan-Leitner, who has been involved previously in cases of Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel, feared he would not receive a fair trial in the PA.
International and Palestinian human rights groups have criticized the PA in the past for trying alleged collaborators in the security court, with little or no defense and a swift sentencing and execution.
In al-Zatma’s case, Hamas had demanded that he be killed even without legal proceedings or a basic trial, Darshan-Leitner said in a statement on Tuesday. She charged that Gaza Security Chief Rashid Abu Shabak gave in to their demand and turned over his prisoner.
“The gangland style murder of al-Zatma was carried out jointly by the Gaza security police and Hamas,” Darshan-Leitner said.
“Gaza security boss Rashid Abu Shabak proudly displayed the young student at a press conference and then permitted Hamas to murder him in cold blood without even a sham trial,” she said.
Darshan-Leitner also accused human rights groups such as Amnesty International of turning a blind eye to the plight of collaborators until after they are killed, saying they have a political agenda “which does not include assisting those accused of aiding Israel.”
Amnesty International had no immediate response to al-Zatma’s murder and referred to an earlier press release expressing concern over “the abduction and killing by Palestinian armed groups of Palestinians who have allegedly collaborated with the Israeli intelligence services.”
AI said on Tuesday that if it received enough information before an event it could send out an urgent appeal.
But Darshan-Leitner said requests for help in an earlier case had been ignored. This piece ran on the CNS wire on September 24th, 2002