Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 27 May 2019

Palestinians release dual US national convicted over land sales

It had sentenced him to life imprisonment for violating a ban on selling land to Israelis

The status of Jerusalem is one of many to be resolved in any Middle East peace plan. AFP
The status of Jerusalem is one of many to be resolved in any Middle East peace plan. AFP

The Palestinian Authority has handed over to US authorities an American-Palestinian it had sentenced to life imprisonment for violating a ban on selling land to Israelis, two senior Palestinian officials said on Sunday.

"Issam Akel holds an American passport and he was handed over to the US authorities upon their request," one senior security official, who asked not to be named, said.

A second official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Mr Akel's release.

Both declined to give any more details. Mr Akel's family was not available for comment. US officials did not comment when asked about Akel's Mr release.

Mr Akel was convicted by a West Bank court in December of attempting to sell a property in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem without the permission of his business partners or the Palestinian authorities.

Mr Akels family has denied the allegations against him.

He was detained in October in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Palestinian law forbids the sale of land to Israelis as a form of treachery.

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The Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule over the West Bank, makes the final decision about any land sales in East Jerusalem. Israel occupied the territory during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War but the Palestinians seek it as the capital of any future state. The majority of the international community considers Israel's annexation of the territory to be illegal under international law, as well as its settlement enterprise and population of 150,000 Jewish settlers living in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Palestinians view attempts to buy East Jerusalem land by Israelis as a bid to increase their hold over the city that hosts some of the holiest sites for Muslims, Jews and Christians.

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman called in November for Mr Akel to be released, after he was first detained.

Hamas, the group that controls the Gaza Strip and is a rival to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, said releasing Akel was a "grave crime".

Updated: January 21, 2019 04:55 PM

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