Israel releases PA Jerusalem official held over reported abduction

Israeli authorities also free a PA intelligence official; Ghaith’s lawyer says client’s arrest related to the sale of a home in Jerusalem’s Old City to Jews

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

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

Israeli authorities released Palestinian Authority Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith from prison Monday, two days after he was arrested on suspicions he helped abduct a Palestinian resident of the capital.

Ghaith was released from a holding facility in the city on the condition that he remain under house arrest for the coming week and that he pay NIS 20,000 bail, the Palestinian official’s lawyer said.

Mickey Rosenfeld, an Israel Police spokesman said Ghaith was allowed to leave, but did not confirm the conditions of his release.

Rosenfeld said he could not provide any details on why Ghaith was arrested.

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

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 two weeks ago, who has since remained in the PA’s custody in the West Bank, their lawyers told Reuters on Monday.

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

Faqih was also arrested on Saturday and released on Monday. Rosenfeld did not respond when asked about the conditions under which Faqih was released.

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 on Monday.

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 TV news 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 arrest was related to the sale of the home in the Old City, but declined to provide any additional details.

Ghaith appeared before a judge in Jerusalem on Monday, but all court documents related to his case are under a gag order for 30 days, a court spokeswoman said.

Ghaith did not respond to phone calls immediately following his release from Israeli custody.

Abbas called both Ghaith and Faqih to congratulate them on being released, 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.

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