Israel holds Palestinian, without trial, as a spy WAR IN THE GULF

January 31, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent

JERUSALEM -- They had put their three sons to bed and had just turned off the television after watching the news of the war when five army jeeps converged on their house, said Lucy Nusseibeh. The soldiers demanded her husband.

Mrs. Nusseibeh packed a bag of clothes and a book for Sari Nusseibeh and said a quick goodbye.

He faces no charges and will have no trial, but Israeli authorities said that he will not be released from confinement for at least six months.

Their decision to place him in "administrative detention" late Tuesday has shocked Palestinian intellectuals who see it as proof that Israel's government will sabotage any chance of peace with Palestinians.

Mr. Nusseibeh, 41 and a Palestinian nationalist, teaches at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank.

He is a moderate, an advocate of dialogue, they say. His willingness to negotiate with Israel had even led to his being assaulted by more radical Palestinians.

A Defense Ministry spokesman, however, suggested that he is a spy. He was arrested because he "served as a channel for communicating security-related information to various elements, including the PLO elements abroad, for Iraqi intelligence."

He indicated that Mr. Nusseibeh had passed to the Palestine Liberation Organization information about the impact sites of Iraqi missiles, so that Iraq might better train its aim on Tel Aviv.

The explanation was greeted skeptically by Israel's allies. The U.S. State Department was reported to have reacted negatively, and the British Foreign Office said: "If the Israeli authorities have evidence to support the accusations against him, he should be put on trial."

Mrs. Nusseibeh called the spying allegation "terrible slander." Their home, which straddles the border between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, has been under strict curfew for 13 days, she said. "The only thing we know about the missile sites is what we see on television and hear on Israel radio," she said.

In a statement given to his lawyer, Mr. Nusseibeh called the charges "particularly ludicrous."

"My administrative detention has nothing to do with Iraq, missile attacks, violations of security provisions or any matter other than my political views on the need for peace and moderation," the statement said.

But the Israeli deputy foreign minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, offered biting comments when asked last night about him.

"You have people sitting on the mountains, identified with the PLO, guiding these missiles into the city," he told Israel television.

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