Fuad Shubaki, Arafat's former right-hand man, was convicted Wednesday in the Judea Military Court for security offences, including arms smuggling, and financing and organizing the Karine-A, a Gaza-bound weapons ship seized in January 2002.
He was also found guilty of supplying thousands of tons of weapons to the PA in exchange for millions of dollars and maintaining contact with a hostile entity, namely Iran.
Even after his conviction, Shubaki still insists on his innocence. "From my very first days, I have sought peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis and to build neighborly relations," he said shortly after the verdict was read.
"I was responsible for the budget of the Palestinian security forces. I have no connection to weapons. I was responsible for salaries, clothes, fuel, cars, and food for the people who were employed by the Palestinian Authority."
His sentence will be issued by the Military Court at a later date.
The raid on the Jericho prison where Shubaki was captured (Photo: AP)
Shubaki, formerly the financial affairs advisor to the Palestinian security forces, was arrested by the Palestinian Authority at the behest of the US. He was imprisoned in Jericho together with Rehavam Ze'evi's assassin.
In March 2006, the IDF raided the jail, arresting Shubaki and those responsible for Ze'evi's murder after receiving a tip off that the PA intended to release the convicts.
While being questioned by the Shin Bet, Shubaki revealed a great deal of information about the conduct of the PA under Arafat in the first days of the al-Aqsa intifada. He admitted that the PA financed terror rings that acted against Israel, partly from tax money transferred by the state to the PA.
He also revealed that the Iran and Hezbollah helped organize the Karine-A weapons smuggling ship in conjunction with senior PA officials, many of whom received money to purchase arms.
Shubaki's trial has taken been ongoing for the past three years.
Shubaki was added in the past year to Hamas' list of prisoners being demanded in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
The judges also ruled that Shubaki's office transferred money to finance a factory for the manufacture of explosives and weaponry, and that Shubaki was in full knowledge that the weapons would be transferred to Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade for the purpose of carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel.
'Not just following orders'
The verdict was read Wednesday before a three-judge panel headed by the Court President Lt. Col. Tzvi Lekach. According to the charges confirmed by the verdict, Shubaki was commissioned by Yasser Arafat to obtain weapons in the early 2000s. He was responsible for gathering orders and collecting payments. Over the course of two years, Shubaki procured a thousand tons of ammunitions valued at more than $7 million.
Shubaki was also found by the court to be responsible for organizing the Karine A weapons ship, which was seized in January 2002 with large quantities of weapons on board. His verdict also revealed that he met with a Hamas operative in September 2001 to update him about contacts with Iran regarding financing the Karine-A. During the said meeting, he was informed that the Palestinians were required to pay $125,000 in order to cover the ship's expenses. He then transferred a request for this amount to Arafat, who subsequently authorized and signed it, giving the project a green light.
Shubaki was also convicted of maintaining contact with a hostile entity, for his contacts with Iranian officials in various collaborative efforts with the PA, including the Karine-A affair.
"We see that the defendant fully knew that the weapons that were procured were transferred to the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades," wrote the judges in their verdict. They also wrote that Shubaki was not just another functionary following orders, but was well aware of the significance of his actions, often acting on his own accord to promote issues personally.
In regards to the Karine-A affair, the judges also noted that Shubaki not only delivered the financial documents for Arafat's approval, but also made sure that the sum was paid from the Palestinian Finance Ministry.
'I am part of Abbas' camp'
Prosecutor Cpt. Andrei Versacegen requested that the court sentence the 70-year-old Shubaki to life imprisonment for the severity of his crimes. "Everything connected to the weapons ship, after all these were military-grade weapons intended to fight against a regular army, it is not difficult to understand what would have happened if the ship had reached its destination," he claimed.
Shubaki's counsel opposed the request. According to him, Shubaki did not make any gains from the weapons deals. He claimed that his client acted merely as one of the branches of the Palestinian Authority that was waging a struggle against the State of Israel at that time.
Shubaki himself said that he did not initiate or carry out any of the said events. "I have no connection (to this). Every outgoing document was signed by the president (Arafat), and we were merely following orders. I didn't know that one thousand tons of weapons were at stake. I also didn't know how much money was paid," he said.
Shubaki was, according to him, "on the side of the peace supporters."
"I am from Abu Mazen's (Mahmoud Abbas') camp. I worked with him for 28 years," Shubaki claimed further.
Also in his defense, Shubaki claimed that he is of poor health and asked to return to his home with his six children after eight years of imprisonment. In his statements, he implied that he helped Israel obtain information on terrorists. "I ask for compassion from the court. The decision is ultimately theirs," he said.
His sentence will be issued in August.