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Court sentences Palestinian to 5 years for selling land to Israelis

May 1, 2019 at 1:40 pm

Israeli settlements near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on 10 February 2015 [Nedal Eshtayah/Apaimages]

A court has sentenced a Palestinian man to five years in prison for trying to sell land to Jewish-Israelis.

The Nablus court today handed the Palestinian man – whose name has not been released and is known only by his initials M.Y.M – a five-year prison sentence for trying to sell Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank to Israelis.

“The Grand Criminal Court that met in Nablus sentenced […] M.Y.M to five years in prison on charges of attempting to cut off part of the Palestinian lands and [sell] it to a foreign state,” the Times of Israel reported, citing a memo on the website of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Higher Judicial Council.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official in the PA’s Judiciary Council told the Israeli daily that M.Y.M “attempted to leak land to Israelis, which is in violation of the law”. The Times of Israel explained the official “us[ed] the Arabic term to allude to selling land to Israeli Jews”.

Selling or attempting to sell land to Jewish-Israelis is considered a crime by the Palestinian authorities and is punishable by hard labour, imprisonment or death. However, no death penalties have been signed off by PA President Mahmoud Abbas since 2006.

READ: Israel advances 3,600 new settlement units deep in West Bank

In January, the PA agreed to extradite a Jerusalemite Palestinian to the US for selling land to Jewish-Israelis. The Higher Offences Court in Ramallah convicted Issam Aqel – a resident of the Beit Hanina neighbourhood of Jerusalem – of “attempting to sever parts of Palestinian land and annex it to a foreign state,” handing him a “life sentence with hard labour”.

However, shortly after the sentencing the PA agreed to extradite Aqel – who is a dual Palestinian-American national – to the US, after months of pressure. Speaking at the time, a Palestinian official claimed the PA was eager to get Aqel “off its hands”, saying: “We want to finish this saga. He has become a burden upon us.”

The US had put pressure on the PA to release Aqel since he was first arrested in October 2018. In November, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman took to Twitter to condemn Aqel’s imprisonment, saying: “Akel’s [sic] incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence, we demand his immediate release.”

US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman in Jerusalem on 10 May 2018 [U.S. Embassy Jerusalem/Flickr]

US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman in Jerusalem on 10 May 2018 [U.S. Embassy Jerusalem/Flickr]

Israel also supported the US in this pressure, with the Israeli Civil Administration – which administers the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) – in November freezing security coordination with the PA in Jerusalem in protest against Aqel’s detention. A week previously, Israel had withdrawn the VIP travel card of Palestinian Attorney General Ahmed Barrak, after he ordered an amendment to Aqel’s detention.

In March, Jewish-Israeli settlers moved into a house in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City that was sold to them by Aqel. According to Haaretz, the rights to the historical Al-Alami family home were transferred to Aqel, who then sold it to Ateret Cohanim, “a non-profit group that buys houses for Jews in the Old City and surrounding areas”. The right-wing organisation has been closely evolved in the eviction of scores of Palestinians from the Jerusalem neighbourhoods Silwan – which lies just outside the Old City walls – and Sheikh Jarrah, encouraging illegal Israeli settlement in the Holy City.

The illegal settlers who now occupy the Al-Alami home have since renamed the building after Ari Fuld, an illegal West Bank settler with links to the ultra-right-wing National Union party, which was recently elected to Israel’s new Knesset.

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