PA hands over Palestinian Jerusalem resident held for alleged role in murder

PA hands over Palestinian Jerusalem resident held for alleged role in murder

After Sameh Nasser al-Din spends 9 months in custody, PA police says it received ‘ necessary pledges’ he will be tried in Israeli courts over March 2018 killing of man in Ramallah

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

Family members of Samih Nasser al-Din protesting in Ramallah. (Screenshot: Wattan News Agency)
Family members of Samih Nasser al-Din protesting in Ramallah. (Screenshot: Wattan News Agency)

The Palestinian Authority police announced on Monday that it has handed over murder suspect Sameh Nasser al-Din, a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem, to Israel.

The PA had held Nasser al-Din in its custody since April on suspicion that he participated in the murder of Raed Ghrouf, a young Palestinian man who was found dead on the premises of the Millennium Hotel in Ramallah on March 3, 2018.

Ghrouf, who was from Jericho, was a worker at the hotel. Members of his family protested the PA’s transfer of Nasser al-Din to Israeli authorities on Monday in central Jericho.

In a rare move for a case involving a resident of Jerusalem, the PA started to carry out legal proceedings against Nasser al-Din several months ago.

The PA Attorney General’s Office has released few details of the investigation it undertook into the killing of Ghrouf, but it has said it indicted a total of five persons including Nasser al-Din for participating in it.

Illustrative. A bustling Manara Square in downtown Ramallah. (Michal Fattal/Flash90)

An Israeli security official, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Times of Israel last month that the PA arresting Palestinian residents of Jerusalem or carrying out legal proceedings against them violates signed agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.

In a statement, the PA police noted Nasser al-Din was a holder of an Israeli ID card and said it had received “the necessary pledges to guarantee” that he would be tried in Israeli courts.

It also said handing over Nasser al-Din to Israel was in accordance with “signed agreements.”

Asked about the PA police’s announcement, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, declined to comment.

Many members of Nasser al-Din’s family have insisted on their relative’s innocence. They also have contended the PA obtained confessions from him under torture. A PA government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment about the allegation.

The High Court of Justice has also recently dealt with Nasser al-Din’s case since one of his lawyers filed a petition calling on the state to take action to transfer him into the hands of Israeli authorities, according to the Walla news site.

Last week, the High Court expressed dissatisfaction with the information it received from the state about its efforts to transfer the accused man to Israeli authorities, Walla reported.

“The updates we received since the last time are far from satisfactory,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut said last Thursday at a hearing regarding Nasser al-Din.

In October, the PA arrested Issam Akel, another Palestinian resident of Jerusalem and an American citizen, on suspicion that he attempted to sell property to Israeli-Jews. Late last year, an official in the PA judiciary’s media office said a PA court sentenced Akel to life in prison for attempting to sell property to Israeli Jews, adding he could he appeal the ruling.

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 Jewish Israelis include various degrees of hard labor and imprisonment 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.

The Kan public broadcaster reported in early January that the PA was planning to deport Akel to the United States, citing a Palestinian official. The US had been heavily pressuring the PA to release Akel, Kan reported at the time.

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