A Palestinian court today sentenced an American-Palestinian to life imprisonment for violating a ban on selling land to Israelis, judiciary officials said.
The US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, called in November for dual national Issam Aqel to be released, saying his suspected crime was “selling land to a Jew” and his incarceration violated American values.
Aqel was accused of attempting to sell a property in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem without the permission of his business partners or Palestinian authorities. Palestinian officials have not publicly identified the intended buyer.
The Higher Offences Court in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, convicted Aqel 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 labour,” it said. Aqel can appeal, a judiciary official said.
An official at the US embassy said: “We are aware of reports that a US citizen has been sentenced by a Palestinian court. When a US citizen is incarcerated abroad, the US government works to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”
Aqel’s family, which denied the allegations against him, said it was unaware of the verdict or sentence.
Aqel was detained on 10 October in Ramallah, an Israeli security official said.
Palestinian law bars selling land to “a hostile state or any of its citizens”. It requires the permission of the Palestinian Authority for all land sales in East Jerusalem.
Israel captured the eastern part of Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in contravention of international law.