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Fatah leader sentenced to 15 years by Gaza military court

Jan. 8, 2013 5:19 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 9, 2013 8:39 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A military court in Gaza City on Tuesday sentenced a Fatah military leader to 15 years in jail.

Muhammad al-Sakani told Ma’an that his brother Zaki was accused of terrorism and illegally possessing explosives and weapons.

Muhammad condemned the verdict as unjust and vowed to appeal the decision.

Zaki, from Gaza City’s Shujaiyya neighborhood, was detained four years ago and held in a Gaza jail.

Fatah denounced the verdict in a statement, describing it as "unjust because it was issued by an illegitimate court, and because the motive behind the verdict was merely political."

"The man was a prominent leader of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades and one of its best fighters."

"As the verdict comes only hours before a reconciliation-related meeting in Cairo, it can only be interpreted as confirmation that a trend within Hamas still endorses rivalry," the statement continued.

President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal will be in Cairo on Wednesday, although officials have not confirmed whether they will meet together or hold separate talks with Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi.

Their parties remain at loggerheads despite years of reconciliation talks, having split violently in 2007.

Both Fatah and Hamas deny they hold political prisoners, saying inmates are wanted for criminal charges not their political affiliation. ICHR notes that such detentions in the West Bank and Gaza regularly circumvent due process, and the charges are not generally convincing.

'Bomb-maker'

Al-Sakani, born in 1965, was once wanted by Israeli authorities for his role in explosives-manufacturing, according to Fatah-affiliated websites.

As the second Palestinian intifada entered its second year, according to Fatah sources, al-Sakani along with late Fatah leader Abdul-Muti al-Sabaawi designed the first homemade mortar shell and went on to produce hundreds of shells.

As a result, the Israeli intelligence tried to hunt him down through several targeted assassinations, including one which injured him in Gaza City while he was launching mortar shells at an Israeli settlement, before Israeli forces disengaged from the coastal enclave.

After Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in July 2008, the security services of Hamas stormed his home in the Zaytoun neighborhood, but he escaped, Fatah sources said. Hamas forces confiscated his handgun, a homemade projectile and several mortar shells and explosives, as well as a computer.

On July 25, 2008 five high profile leaders of the Hamas' military wing were killed in an explosion near the beach in Gaza City and about 40 civilians were injured. Hamas then accused al-Sakani of being behind that explosion.

In August 2008, the Hamas-affiliated website Palestine Today quoted sources privy to the details as saying that security services in Gaza detained four suspects including Zaki al-Sakani, a Fatah-affiliated explosives expert.

Al-Sakani was in al-Shifa hospital when he was arrested and jailed, having survived an assassination attempt a day earlier. A group of gunmen had opened fire on al-Sakani and he underwent a surgery before he was jailed by Hamas' security.

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