Egypt refuses to extradite convicted PA official

Gaza ex-security chief Rashid Abu-Shbak was charged with embezzlement, highlighting intra-Fatah rift between Gaza and Ramallah

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Rashid Abu-Shbak arrives at a meeting in Gaza, March 2004 (photo credit: AP/Adel Hana)
Rashid Abu-Shbak arrives at a meeting in Gaza, March 2004 (photo credit: AP/Adel Hana)

Egypt has refused to extradite a former Palestinian security official sentenced on Sunday to 15 years in prison for embezzlement, the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Tuesday.

Colonel Rashid Abu-Shbak, head of the Palestinian Authority’s Preventative Security Agency in Gaza from 2002 to 2006 and head of internal security in the city prior to Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, was tried in absentia by an anti-corruption court in Ramallah for the embezzlement of nearly $1 million during his service as security chief.

The former security official, who currently divides his time between Cairo and the United Arab Emirates, was convicted on December 29 and charged with a fine of $930,000 in addition to his prison sentence with hard labor.

Abu-Shbak’s indictment underscores the deep rift between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and members of Fatah, mostly originating from Gaza, who are allied with former security strongman Mohammad Dahlan. Abu-Shbak’s direct commander, Dahlan was dismissed from Fatah in June 2011 after he was accused of leading a mutiny against Abbas. He currently resides in Dubai.

Most Fatah officials were expelled from Gaza or executed during Hamas’s takeover of the Strip in 2007, a year after Hamas won internationally monitored elections in the Palestinian Authority.

An unnamed senior Palestinian source told Al-Quds Al-Arabi that Egypt had refused an official PA request to extradite Abu-Shbak, citing “the influence of his group with the new Egyptian leadership.”

Last year, the same anti-corruption court that tried Abu-Shbak convicted in absentia Muhammad Rashid, Yasser Arafat’s money man, of embezzling $34 million. Rashid, also known as Khaled Slam and still on the PA’s wanted list, appeared alongside Dahlan at the European parliament in Brussels earlier this month, hosted by parliament member Mário David.

Some in Fatah questioned the integrity of the process against Abu-Shbak. Hussam Khader, a Nablus-based member of Fatah and a former Palestinian legislator, said that Abu-Shbak’s trial was “political rather than criminal.”

“If Abu-Shbak was tried in such a way for his corruption, imagine how many trials should take place for real corruption against the vast majority of PA officials now,” Khader said in a statement posted to his Facebook page. “The problem is, a person is not found to be corrupt unless he clashes with someone influential in the corrupt Oslo [-supporting] Palestinian Authority.”

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