A Palestinian Authority court sentenced Ramallah Mayor Musa Hadid and another local leader to three months in prison on Wednesday for attempting to collect taxes in an illegal manner, according to a Palestinian official.
Hadid has served as Ramallah’s mayor since 2012.
“The court sentenced Musa Hadid and Azzam Qaran in absentia to three months in prison for trying to collect taxes for licensing from driving schools in violation of the law,” Fawaz Barghouti, the head of the PA Judiciary’s Media Office, told The Times of Israel. “If they so choose, they can appeal their sentencing.”
Azzam Qaran has served as mayor of Al-Bireh, a town adjacent to Ramallah, since 2017, shortly after the last Palestinian local elections took place in the West Bank.
Barghouti said that Palestinian law does not require driving schools to pay taxes for licensing to local government.
“Driving schools send funds for licensing to Driving Schools Union, which in turn pay taxes to the government,” he said. “The law exempts driving schools from paying taxes for licensing to municipalities and our courts have previously ruled so.”
The Ramallah Driving Schools Union did not respond to a request for comment.
Qaran told a local news outlet that he had not been informed of the case and sentencing against him.
“I was not informed about [this case],” he told the Wattan News Agency. “I heard about the sentencing through the press and citizens.”
Barghouti, however, insisted that both Hadid and Qaran were notified of the case against them and asserted that a lawyer representing them attended three hearings about it.
Azzam also said he would, “in cooperation” with Hadid, appeal the sentencing.
Hadid did not respond to several phone calls on Wednesday.
Barghouti added that he expected Hadid and Qaran would ask in an appeal to change their sentencing from prison time to a fine.
“That is usually what people do in cases like this one,” he said. “If they do that, the court would have to decide whether it accepts or rejects their request.”
Ramallah and Al-Bireh are some of the largest municipalities in the West Bank and the home to many of the PA’s government ministries and headquarters. They also are a major destination for tourists visiting the territory.