Ukraine professors defends Palestinian engineer

Former professors of a Palestinian engineer captured in Ukraine and sent to Israel to face charges he built missiles for the militant group Hamas refute allegations in his indictment that he was taught weapons systems.

Dirar Abu Sisi, 42, vanished from a train in Ukraine in February and resurfaced days later in an Israeli prison. Abu Sisi, who claims innocence, is to stand trial in coming weeks on hundreds of counts of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Konstantin Petrovich Vlasov told The Associated Press that Abu Sisi was his doctoral student in civilian electricity systems at the Kharkiv National Academy of Municipal Services in the mid-1990s, but denies he was taught about weapons.

The Israeli indictment says a Konstantin Petrovich, Abu Sisi's professor at a civilian institute, also taught at an academy for military engineering in the eastern city of Kharkiv, although no such school exists. Petrovich apparently is not a surname but a patronymic — a name derived from the first name of one's father.

The Israeli document claims the professor is an expert in Soviet-made Scud missile control systems. It alleges that Konstantin Petrovich arranged for Abu Sisi to attend classes at the military academy, where he gained knowledge that enabled him to modernize missiles launched by Palestinian militants into Israel.

Israel would not immediately comment on the incongruities concerning the professor's name or the purported military academy.

Vlasov, an expert in civilian electrical and mineral processing systems, said he had no connection to the military, never sent any of his students to a military academy and has never even seen a missile.

"This is all lies, there isn't a single word of truth in it," Vlasov, 80, said in a telephone interview. "I have never lectured at any military academy and never had anything to do with anything military. I have only seen missiles on TV."

Vlasov initially supervised Abu Sisi's doctoral work, then moved to the Russian city of St. Petersburg and handed Abu Sisi over to another professor at the academy, Filipp Govorov.

Abu Sisi's dissertation on the use of transformers in city electricity grids, viewed by the AP at Ukraine's national library, lists Govorov as Abu Sisi's Ph.D. adviser.

Govorov also dismissed the charges against Abu Sisi.

"They said that he allegedly dealt with rockets, but what we did had nothing to do with it," Govorov told the AP.

Abu Sisi has acknowledged being in contact with senior Hamas members as part of his work in Gaza as a senior manager at the power plant, but says he is not a member of the militant group and did not build weapons or train soldiers for Hamas as his indictment claims.

Israel has said little about Abu Sisi's arrest or how he ended up in Israel. It only confirmed holding him weeks after his disappearance. Abu Sisi's family says he was kidnapped by the Mossad spy agency. Ukrainian government said it had no involvement in the arrest.

Abu Sisi's Israeli lawyer, Tal Linoy, says he believes Israeli authorities detained Abu Sisi based on an erroneous tip that he had information about the whereabouts of Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Gaza militants nearly five years ago.

After that proved wrong, the government is now trying to save face, the lawyer said; he provided no evidence for his theory.

"I think they took him by mistake," Linoy said. "Now this fire needs to be put out, because ... the image of the state, the government and Israeli special services is at stake. They needed to dig something up."


Ian Deitch and Aron Heller contributed to this report from Jerusalem.