Israel rearrests PA Jerusalem official, reportedly over land sales

Security forces say Adnan Ghaith is being held on ‘money-related issues,’ but reports say case is connected to sale of property to a Jewish buyer

Palestinian Authority Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith. (Screenshot: YouTube)
Palestinian Authority Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith. (Screenshot: YouTube)

Israeli police arrested the Palestinian Authority governor of Jerusalem for the second time in as many months, a spokesman said Sunday, after reports of an investigation related to a land sale.

Adnan Ghaith was arrested in East Jerusalem overnight, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement, without providing further details. Israeli security forces would not comment beyond saying the arrest had to do with money-related issues.

Hebrew media have reported that authorities are investigating the governor following the PA’s arrest of a man in October accused of being involved in selling property in East Jerusalem to a Jewish buyer.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court extended his remand until Thursday at noon.

On October 20, Ghaith was detained for two days of questioning before being released, with the Shin Bet domestic security agency saying it was over “illegal activity by the (Palestinian Authority) in Jerusalem.”

Israeli security forces nabbed Ghaith in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, on his way out of a family member’s wedding, the Palestinian official’s brother Hani Ghaith said in a phone call.

Ghaith and Jihad Faqih, the Jerusalem director of the PA General Intelligence Services, were collared on suspicion they helped abduct a Palestinian-American resident of Jerusalem, who was then put in the PA’s custody in the West Bank, their lawyers told Reuters.

Both Ghaith and Faqih denied the charges, their lawyers said.

The Old City of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock shrine in the center, as seen from the Mount of Olives, on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

The Palestinian-American resident of Jerusalem was being sought by the PA over his involvement in the sale of a home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City to Jews, Hadashot TV news reported.

The PA government formed a committee to investigate the sale of the home in the Old City, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah tweeted on October 9.

Several PA officials declined to comment on the Reuters and Hadashot reports.

PA courts have previously sentenced Palestinians to death for selling land to Jews. Since 2005, however, the PA has not carried out any executions.

Muhammed Mahmoud, Ghaith’s lawyer, confirmed that his client’s first arrest was related to the sale of the home in the Old City, but declined to provide any additional details.

Abbas called both Ghaith and Faqih to congratulate them on being released after the first arrest, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

In late August, Abbas appointed Ghaith, a resident of Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood and a longtime Fatah activist, to the role of PA Jerusalem governor.

In his new role, Ghaith is responsible for overseeing PA activity in the neighborhoods within its jurisdiction on the edges and outside of Jerusalem.

Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally, almost entirely does not allow the PA to operate within Jerusalem.

Israel seldom arrests high-ranking PA officials. However, Israeli security forces have arrested Ghaith many times in the past several years, including on suspicion of incitement, his brother Hani said.

He has been taken for questioning a number of times in recent weeks and his office was raided on November 4.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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