Court orders release of Jerusalem Palestinian Authority official

Judges also cut loose 9 East Jerusalem residents arrested last week on suspicion of supporting and serving in PA security forces

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

An Israeli policeman watches over the Palestinian Authority's Jerusalem governor, Adnan Ghaith, during a court appearance following his arrest in Jerusalem, November 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
An Israeli policeman watches over the Palestinian Authority's Jerusalem governor, Adnan Ghaith, during a court appearance following his arrest in Jerusalem, November 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday ordered the release of the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem governor, Adnan Ghaith, who was arrested last week for allegedly collaborating with the Palestinian Authority security forces, Ghaith’s lawyer said.

“The court decided to set Adnan free on the condition that he remain under house arrest until Thursday evening, does not enter the West Bank for 14 days and pays [NIS] 500 bail,” Rami Othman, Ghaith’s lawyer, said in a phone call.

Israeli law bars East Jerusalemite Palestinians from working with the PA security forces, Othman said.

Efrat Oron, a court spokeswoman, referred questions to the police, whose spokesperson referred them back to the Magistrate’s Court.

The court also ordered the release of nine East Jerusalem residents under the same conditions as Ghaith, Othman said.

A general view of neighborhoods in Palestinian-dominated East Jerusalem, close to the historic Old City, May 31, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)

Last Monday, Israeli security forces arrested 32 East Jerusalem residents on suspicions of supporting and serving in the PA security forces.

After Israel releases the nine East Jerusalem residents, all 32 arrested last week will have been set free, Othman noted.

Israel’s arrests of Ghaith and the East Jerusalemites appear to have been prompted by the detention of Issam Akel, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem who allegedly sold property to Israeli Jews.

The PA arrested Akel, who also holds American citizenship, in October.

Last Wednesday, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman called on Ramallah to release Akel.

“The Pal Authority has been holding US citizen Isaam Akel in prison for ~2 months,” Friedman tweeted. “His suspected ‘crime’? Selling land to a Jew. Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence. We demand his immediate release.”

Palestinian law considers attempting to sell or selling land to Israeli Jews a punishable offense.

According to the law, possible punishments for trying to sell or selling land to Israeli Jews include various degrees of hard labor as well as execution.

However, the law requires that PA President Mahmoud Abbas approve any death sentence, and he has not signed off on any executions since 2006.

Akel’s father, Jalal, has denied that his son sold land to Israeli Jews.

“There is no evidence my son sold anything to Israelis, all charges are void,” Jalal told Reuters last week.

Following Akel’s arrest, security coordination between Israel and the PA in parts of the West Bank adjacent to Jerusalem was halted, the Kan public broadcaster reported last Thursday.

Security coordination allows for the PA to operate in villages adjacent to Jerusalem, where it does not have a permanent security presence.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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