Jpost – Arab-Israeli Conflict
A Palestinian Authority court in Ramallah on Monday sentenced a Palestinian American citizen to life in prison with hard labor for his involvement in the sale of properties to Israeli Jews.
The man, Isaam Akel, was arrested by the PA last October despite holding an Israeli ID card in his capacity as a resident of east Jerusalem.
The Higher Offenses Court in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, convicted Akel of “attempting to sever parts of Palestinian land and annex it to a foreign state,” the judiciary media office said.
“In light of the conviction, the court handed down a life sentence with hard labor,” it said. Akel can appeal, a judiciary official said.
“The 55-year-old man, who is a US citizen, is being interrogated by the Palestinians security agencies in Ramallah for his role in the sale of an Arab-owned house in the Old City of Jerusalem to a Jewish organization,” sources told The Jerusalem Post upon Akel’s arrest.
Akel’s family, which denied the allegations against him, said it was unaware of the verdict or sentence.
The US State Department and the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman had protested against the incarceration of Akel by the PA.
“Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence,” said Friedman on Twitter in November. “We demand his immediate release.”
“We are aware of reports that a US citizen has been sentenced by a Palestinian court,” a senior US official told The Jerusalem Post‘s sister publication Maariv. “When a US citizen is incarcerated abroad, the US government works to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”
Palestinian law bars selling land to “a hostile state or any of its citizens.” It requires the permission of the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, for all land sales in East Jerusalem.
Palestinian sources said Akel, a resident of Bethlehem, had worked for the PA Ministry for Local Government before his arrest.
Reuters contributed to this report.