Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Execution in Arafat's compound - an eye-witness account

Execution in Arafat's compound - an eye-witness account

Author: Khaled Abu Toameh
Publication: Newsweek
Date: August 7, 2002

It was just before 10.A.M. and the first ministers were beginning to arrive at the mukattah compound for an emergency cabinet meeting to be chaired by Yasser Arafat. The Israeli tanks, bulldozers and armored personnel carriers, which have been inside the mukattah for the past few weeks, pulled back a few hundred meters south of the compound to allow the meeting to take place.

The journalists are told by some PA officials that the cabinet meeting is expected to last for a few hours. Some cameramen find shelter from the sun in the shade of a nearby building. Others, including myself, decide to take a look around the area. We walk a few meters south of Arafat's office and run into what was once the headquarters of the PA's mukhabarat, or General Intelligence. The building has been completely destroyed. We head further south and run into a group of young men, some armed with pistols and AK 47 rifles, sitting and chatting under a tree.

Behind them is a small building surrounded with barbed wires. On top of the big green gate is a sign in Arabic which reads: "Ramallah Correctional Center." This is the prison where Palestinian inmates were held. Most were moved to secret locations after the IDF arrived.

Suddenly two policemen in plainclothes emerge from the prison. One of them is "embracing" a young, bearded men dressed in jeans and a white T shirt. The young man's face is badly swollen and it looks as if he needs to see a dentist immediately.

He passes by and looks me straight in the eye, as if he is trying to tell me something. Although he was not handcuffed, he did look like a suspect who was probably on his way to interrogation. None of the cameramen or reporters standing under Arafat's second floor office paid attention to the three as they passed by.

In my heart I felt something was wrong. It must have been the strange look in the eyes of the young man. It's a look that will continue to haunt me for many years. I felt as if this young man with a pale face was begging for help. I decided to follow him and see where he is being taken. The two men took him to the back of a three story building north of Arafat's office. If Arafat was watching from the window, he would have seen it all.

What happened next is hard to describe. The "suspect," in his early twenties, was blindfolded and made to stand against a wall. Three policemen standing about three meters away sprayed him with bullets from their rifles. He was hit in the head and chest and fell to the ground. One of the policemen then walked up to him and fired one more shot into his head. "Take him away," came the order from another police officer.

I couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing. The executioners did not notice that I was watching. When the rest of the journalists heard the shots they rushed towards the area to see what was happening. Some thought that Israeli soldiers had stormed the compound.

Nervous policemen charged at the cameras and reporters and ordered them to leave the area.

I asked a police officer what had happened and he replied, "A criminal has been executed. what's the big deal?"

"What did he do?" I asked another police officer who was trying to block cameras with his hand. "He murdered two elderly women and raped his grandmother," he answered. "Was he ever tried?" I asked. "I don't know, but the President [Arafat] this morning approved the execution.

An ambulance belonging to the Palestinian Red Crescent that had been waiting nearby took the young man's body away before anyone had a chance to see it. As the ambulance was leaving, more ministers continued to arrive for the meeting in their black Mercedese and Audis. I asked three of them if they had heard about the execution which just took place a few meters away the hall where they were planning to meet, and all replied that they had no idea what I was talking about.

A few hours later the PA confirmed that the execution did take place, identifying the victim as Bashir Attari. Palestinians described him as mentally retarded.

Klaus Lofgren, the Middle East correspondent for a Swedish TV station who was standing only a few meters away from the site, was still in shock even after we arrived back in Jerusalem. "This is a surrealistic experience," he said. "To execute someone in a place where the representatives of the world media are standing and where the cabinet is meeting is unprecedented. I have never heard of a case like this and it shows the cultural gap between the Palestinian society and most of the world."

(The reporter, Khaled Abu Toameh, is an Arab whose articles appear regularly in the Jerusalem Report magazine, as well as Newsweek.)

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements