PA releases Yasser Arafat’s ‘righteous son’
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PA releases Yasser Arafat’s ‘righteous son’

Mohammed al Dayya, a bodyguard of the late Palestinian leader, was incarcerated for insulting a senior aide to Abbas

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a rally commemorating the fifth anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death in the West Bank city of Ramallah, 2009. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash 90, file)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a rally commemorating the fifth anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death in the West Bank city of Ramallah, 2009. (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash 90, file)

Mohammed al Dayya, who for many years served as former PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s personal bodyguard, was released on Thursday from Palestinian prison.

Dayya, who holds the rank of brigadier general in the Palestinian Authority’s National Security Service, was arrested late last year after posting on Facebook “derogatory” remarks against a senior aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Because of his unwavering loyalty to the former PLO leader, many Palestinians continue to refer to Dayya as Arafat’s “righteous son.”

Dayya was released after he publicly apologized to the aide, Hussein Hussein, and his family. The apology was published by the PA’s official news agency Wafa.

Addressing the aide, Dayya wrote in his apology, “I don’t accept any harm to you and your family, and I offer my apology for any abuse coming from me, whether intentionally or unintentionally, against you, your wife, and her family on social media and elsewhere. What affects you also affects me.”

Dayya said he had been “honored” to work together with the senior PA official “to serve the homeland and its leader, the martyr and symbol [Arafat].” The former bodyguard said he was keen to continue working with Hussein “under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Upon his release from prison, Dayya headed to the PA Education Ministry, where he met with minister Sabri Saydam and thanked him for his effort to secure his release.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the PA still intends to put Dayya on trial now that he has apologized for his abusive remarks against Abbas’s aide.

While in detention, Dayya went on a hunger strike, claiming he was being unjustly targeted by influential figures in the PA leadership.

During his incarceration, Dayya’s family issued a statement calling on Abbas to release their son immediately. The family said it held the PA’s Military Intelligence Service, which was holding Dayya, responsible for his safety and health.

The family also accused unnamed Palestinian officials of filing “vicious and false” reports to the PA about Dayya prior to his arrest.

“It’s no secret to the Palestinians that our son was companion in [Arafat’s] missions and travels around the world to relay the message of every free Palestinian and to preserve the Palestinian cause,” the family said. “Our son was known for his transparency and humanity and continued his quest to achieve justice. He does not have any agenda to undermine security or foment strife.”

Some Palestinians initially claimed that Dayya was arrested on suspicion of being affiliated with deposed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, an arch-rival of Abbas.

In January, photos of a seemingly unconscious and wheelchair-bound Dayya appeared on several Palestinian websites.

Palestinians said the photos were taken inside a Ramallah hospital where Dayya was being treated after his health deteriorated while in prison.

Dayya’s father, Yusef, was a longtime confidant of Arafat. The father was killed in the 1985 Israeli airstrike on the PLO headquarters in Tunisia. Arafat subsequently “adopted” Dayya, who was only 17 when his father was killed, and turned him into his most trusted bodyguard.

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