Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 August 2020

Israel police release arrested Palestinian cultural leaders

Rania Elias, Suhail Khoury and Daoud Al Ghoul were arrested on Wednesday

Rania Elias, the director of Yabous Cultural Centre in East Jerusalem and her husband were arrested on Wednesday. Ilan Mizrahi 
Rania Elias, the director of Yabous Cultural Centre in East Jerusalem and her husband were arrested on Wednesday. Ilan Mizrahi 

Israeli police released two prominent Palestinian cultural leaders on Wednesday hours after arresting them in east Jerusalem on suspicion of "funding terrorism", one of their lawyers said.

Rania Elias, who heads the Yabous Cultural Centre, and her husband Suhail Khoury, director general of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, were detained at their home in Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighbourhood.

They were released on Wednesday evening "under conditions", Ms Elias's lawyer Nasir Odeh told AFP, without giving further details.

The Yabous centre and the conservatory were also raided by police and Israeli tax investigators, with documents confiscated.

According to Mr Odeh, the couple was "detained on charges of financing terrorist organisations".

But he stressed that Israel's broad antiterrorism laws include a wide range of offences, including accepting money from organisations that the state has labelled as "terrorist".

People walk past the Palestinian National Conservatory of Music that was raided on Wednesday by Israeli police and tax investigators. AFP
People walk past the Palestinian National Conservatory of Music that was raided on Wednesday by Israeli police and tax investigators. AFP

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the officers, with tax authorities, detained "three suspects … in connection with tax evasion and fraud", without mentioning the individuals by name.

He confirmed the searches "at two organisations that were run in east Jerusalem claiming that they were involved in Palestinian culture".

He made no mention of terrorism related offences.

But documents sent to AFP by a conservatory official, presented by police at the time of the search, reference "suspicion of money laundering (and) funding terror".

The third person arrested was Daoud Al Ghoul, director of the Jerusalem Arts Network, an official at the Yabous centre said.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation condemned the arrests and raids as part of "Israel's violent and systematic campaign against Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem".

The Yabous Cultural Centre in east Jerusalem was established in the mid-1990s with a mandate to celebrate Palestinian culture and Arab heritage in the city.

The conservatory, named after the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said, has branches in Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank.

Its mandate is to promote music and music education among Palestinian communities.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

It considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians consider the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Updated: July 23, 2020 11:41 AM

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