Two prominent Palestinians have been released by Israeli police after being detained briefly on suspicion that they were involved in funding terrorism, Agence France Presse (AFP) has reported. Suhail Khoury and Rania Elias were reportedly arrested at home in East Jerusalem.
Both are prominent in Palestinian cultural life. Khoury directs the Edward Said National Conservatory based in Birzeit, north of Ramallah, while Elias heads the Yabous Cultural Centre in East Jerusalem. According to a tweet posted by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation Department of Public Diplomacy and Policy, Israeli police raided both centres yesterday and confiscated documents and equipment.
— PLO Department of Public Diplomacy & Policy (@PalestinePDP) July 22, 2020
The pair were released yesterday evening “under conditions”, Elias’s lawyer Nasir Odeh was quoted by AFP as saying.
An Israeli police spokesperson claimed that Khoury and Elias were arrested “in connection with tax evasion and fraud”. However, a search warrant seen by AFP listed “suspicion of money laundering (and) funding terror” as the offences in question. Odeh confirmed this, telling AFP that his client was “detained on charges of financing terrorist organisations.”
It is not immediately clear what the charges relate to. However, the lawyer claimed that under Israeli laws, accepting donations from organisations which the Zionist state has designated as “terrorists” could constitute a terror-funding crime.
The Times of Israel reported that the pair had been interrogated and the investigation is ongoing. A third suspect, the director of the Jerusalem Arts Network, Daoud Al-Ghoul, was also arrested on similar charges. It is not clear if he has been released.
The PLO issued a statement condemning the arrests: “The raid by Israeli forces of various Palestinian cultural centres in occupied Jerusalem is the latest of a long history of targeting everything Palestinian in our occupied capital.” It also confirmed that Israeli police had searched the Yabous Cultural Centre and the Edward Said National Conservatory early yesterday. The PLO condemned the raid and added that a police search had “wreaked havoc” in Al-Ghoul’s home.
Pictures believed to be of Khoury and Elias appeared online, alongside condemnation of the arrests. “This attack is an extension of Israel’s erasure of Palestinian presence in Jerusalem for decades,” said one caption.
Israeli Occupation Forces invaded the home of and arrested Rania Elias director of the Yabous Cultural Centre,one of the most important #Palestinian cultural centers in #Jerusalem and her husband Suheil Khoury the director of The Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. pic.twitter.com/tANBN8G3fs
— Yafa Jarrar (@YafaJarrar) July 22, 2020