Two men suspected of being agents for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were arrested in Turkey on 15 April. One of the men, Zaki Hassan, 55, was found hanged in his cell at Silivri prison near Istanbul on 28 April.
The two men had been suspected of working for Saudi Arabia. The UAE is a close intelligence ally of Saudi Arabia and Turkish surveillance of their movements suggested a Saudi link. According to their indictment, the two men were under surveillance for almost six months before their arrest. They had been travelling on forged passports. Tensions are currently high between Saudi Arabia and Turkey following the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a meeting at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Hassan was a Palestinian who had previously worked as an officer for the Palestinian Preventive Security Service (PSS). It is believed that the second man, Samer Shabaan, 40, is also a former Palestinian intelligence officer. According to Turkish officials, both men had confessed to their activities and were awaiting trial.
You may wonder why Palestinian agents were working for the UAE? The link is the former head of the PSS, Mohammad Dahlan. He fled Palestine in 2011 following accusations of fraud and corruption. He turned up in the UAE where he lives a playboy lifestyle and acts as a “security consultant “ to the UAE government. In truth, he appears to have become a sort of “gun for hire” using former Palestinian agents as his workforce. His name has been linked to a number of recent espionage events across the Middle East in the Yemen, Egypt and Libya. He has also been linked to the attempt to overthrow President Erdogan of Turkey in 2016. It has been alleged, not unreasonably, that he is talking to the CIA and even Mossad.
According to Turkish authorities, the Turkish security agencies have copies of communications and bank transfers linking the two men to Dahlan.