Palestinian autocrat Mahmoud Abbas has agreed to release 55 yr-old Issam Akel from “life in prison” and allowed him to be deported to the US after being convicted of selling home to Jews.
A middle-aged Palestinian-American man sentenced to life in prison and forced labor by a Palestinian Authority (PA) court in Ramallah for his alleged involvement in the sale of land to Jews, was released on Tuesday, Israel’s Kan media first reported following pressure from Israel and finally from the United States, local media reported.
55-year-old Issam Akel former hospital clerk from East Jerusalem has been detained for several months after being arrested in October at a time when the Palestinian Authority (PA) decided to crack down on land sales to Jews.
The man who holds a blue identification card and US citizenship is expected to leave the West Bank in the coming days after a secret deal was reportedly reached between the PA and US authorities despite the sentence handed down at the end of the year.
Akel was suspected in the sale of an Old City house formerly owned by the Palestinian Joudeh family, one of two families that hold a key to the Holy Sepulchre Church, to a non-profit organization run by Jewish settlers named Ateret Kohanim, Haaretz reported Friday.
He was indicted for an “attempt to transfer some Palestinian lands to a foreign country,” said a statement from the PA’s advocacy court system, but has apparently been used as a scapegoat to detract culpability from other potentially implicated Palestinian officials.
American officials visited Akel in prison according to Kan, applying pressure to ultimately deport him to the United States at the end of the court proceedings.
Israel also apparently tried to tacitly pressure the PA by arresting Palestinian officials in recent months, temporarily detaining 32 East Jerusalem residents on suspicion of supporting and serving in the PA security forces. The suspects were Israeli residents, some receiving social benefits from the state while also serving in the PA’s armed forces, according to the police statement.
“We want to finish this saga. He has become a burden upon us,” a Palestinian official was quoted as saying in the Kan report.
Under Palestinian law, it is considered a felony to sell or attempt to sell land to Israeli Jews, with punishment ranging from various hard labor to execution.
However a death sentence requires the approval of the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, who has not allowed any executions since 2006.
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