Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 May 2019

Turkey spy claims against Palestinian man were 'farcical', his family says

"We wholeheartedly believe that Zaki was murdered to kill the whole story along with him," said his brother, Zain Al Din

Family members hold the photo of Zaki Mubarakat the family's house in Deir al-Balah city in the Gaza Strip. Photo by Sanad Latefa
Family members hold the photo of Zaki Mubarakat the family's house in Deir al-Balah city in the Gaza Strip. Photo by Sanad Latefa

Family members of a Palestinian man who died in Turkish custody after being arrested on charges of spying said the accusations against him were “farcical” and that they believe he was detained with the help of Muslim Brotherhood members for his outspoken opposition to them and Hamas.

His family in Gaza say they will keep fighting to uncover the truth about the death of Zaki Mubarak. Turkish police say that he was found hanged in his cell in Istanbul just days after being arrested for what Ankara says was spying on Arab dissidents in the country.

“It’s impossible that Zaki would take his own life. He was 100 per cent confident that he’s going to be released,” Zaki’s brother, Zain Al Din, told The National. “His lawyer assured us that he’ll be bailed in two days. Why would he take his own life?”

When his brother's lawyer told him the charges against Zaki, Mr Al Din said they "sounded absolutely radicicolous."

"Zaki was a vocal opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, both of whom are thriving in Turkey and are warmly embraced by the Erdogan regime," he said. "He was framed for standing against them."

Mr Al Din said his brother had moved to Turkey to start a restaurant with his friend.

“Zaki brought along all of his personal belongings and his savings to Turkey… [His partner], who used to live in the Gulf area, also brought his savings to open this restaurant and his wife joined with him. It was clear they intended to start a business.”

The family said they were in regular contact with Zaki who was excited about his new business. “He gave us regular updates on any progress he made,” Mr Al Din said. “Then suddenly he disappeared. We contacted several Palestinians in Turkey to learn of his whereabouts, but nobody knew anything.”

Mr Al Din said he believes his brother was murdered because Turkish authorities had said he confessed to the charges of espionage, something he believes he would never do.

“I believe he was killed because he never accepted the fabricated charges against him. Zaki was a hard and strong man. He would have never broken down under torture or interrogation and submitted to those false accusations. He would have insisted that he’s innocent until the end.

"We wholeheartedly believe that Zaki was murdered to kill the whole story along with him," said Zaki's brother.

The man’s cousin, Abu Mohammed Mubarak, told The National that Zaki had been in high spirits just days before his death.

“The attorney reassured us repeatedly that Zaki was innocent, that the charges against him have no basis, that he was confident and his morale was high and that he will be surely bailed out on the Wednesday before he was killed," Mr Mubarak said.

He added that the family had spoken to Zaki on the phone and he had “laughed”, calling his detention “a vacation.”

Mr Al Din recounted speaking to his brother while he was in custody, he recalled Zaki saying that he was a respected lecturer and that “I’m leading a decent life. I’m in no need for money to drag myself into such dangerous things. I have a family. Why would I ever endanger my kids?”

Mr Al Din said his brother feared he was being used as a political pawn.

“The last thing my brother said to me was that ‘they clearly want me as a scapegoat to settle scores. I will pay my life for something I’ve never done. I am confident in my innocence, but I fear not making it out alive – If anything happens to me, take care of my kids’,” Mr Al Din recounted.

The family added that they had reached out to the “Red Cross, the United Nations, Human Rights Organisations, the Palestinian Authority, the Bulgarian Embassy and Hamas” to try to secure Zaki’s release, but to no avail.

“We learned about my brother’s death without any explanation. Even the lawyer wasn’t allowed to see the autopsy report.”

A print out of messages sent to Mubarak's family from his lawyer.  Photo by Sanad Latefa
A print out of messages sent to Mubarak's family from his lawyer. Photo by Sanad Latefa

"Unfortunately we are as Palestinian we don't have value so if anything happens to a Palestinian, no one will do anything", he said.

He says his brother left Gaza in 2007 when he was employed by the Palestinian Authority. Just a year before, Hamas won an election in Gaza and soon after, they fought a civil war with the Palestinian leadership for control for the strip. The group cracked down on PA supporters and employees and the two sides have been split ever since. His family said he left to escape the deteriorating situation in Gaza.

“It's unthinkable that Zaki who had a PhD in political science and a great career lecturing in many Arab and international universities would take his life simply like that as soon as some silly charges are pressed against him,” Mr Mubarak said.

"We were most disappointed at the inaction of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority towards Zaki's arrest. Hamas has good relations with Turkey, but they didn't help, and the Palestinian Embassy were too slow in their procedures."

Zaki’s 18-year old daughter, Islam Mubarak, said she had been trying to get paperwork approved to go live with her father in Istanbul.

"My father left Gaza when I was 5 years old I didn't see him for 12 years and now I will see only his body,” she told The National. “I am so sad for that all my memories with my father are a fog and now also I will not have a future with him.

"He asked me to study chemistry and become a doctor like him, I will work in his dream,” she said. “My revenge for my father killing will be by studying and holding a powerful certification."

Updated: May 2, 2019 07:14 PM

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