Police arrest, then release Palestinian cultural leaders in East Jerusalem
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Police arrest, then release Palestinian cultural leaders in East Jerusalem

Yabous Cultural Center head detained in her home with husband, National Conservatory of Music director; police say they’re suspected of tax evasion

Illustrative: Police officers on patrol after Friday prayers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud on July 28, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90/File)
Illustrative: Police officers on patrol after Friday prayers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud on July 28, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90/File)

Israeli police released two prominent Palestinian cultural leaders on Wednesday hours after arresting them in east Jerusalem, police and one of their lawyers said.

Rania Elias, who heads the Yabous Cultural Center, and her husband, Suhail Khoury, director general of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, were detained in their home in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood.

They were released on Wednesday evening “under conditions,” Elias’s lawyer Nasir Odeh told AFP, without giving further details.

The Yabous center and the conservatory were also raided by police and Israeli tax investigators, with documents confiscated.

The Palestine Liberation Organization condemned the arrests and raids as part of “Israel’s violent and systematic campaign against Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem.”

According to Odeh, the couple was “detained on charges of financing terrorist organizations.”

But he stressed that Israel’s broad anti-terrorism laws include a wide range of offenses, including accepting money from organizations that the Jewish state has labeled terrorist.

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement that police, with tax authorities, detained “three suspects… in connection with tax evasion and fraud,” without mentioning the individuals by name.

It confirmed the searches “at two organizations that were run in East Jerusalem, claiming that they were involved in Palestinian culture.”

Rosenfeld said the individuals were being questioned and the investigation was ongoing.

His statement made no mention of terror-related offenses.

But documents sent to AFP by a conservatory official, presented by police at the time of the search, reference “suspicion of money laundering [and] funding terror.”

The Yabous Cultural Center in East Jerusalem was established in the mid 1990s with a mandate to celebrate Palestinian culture and Arab heritage in the city.

The conservatory, named after the late Palestinian intellectual Said, has branches in Jerusalem and across the West Bank.

Its mandate is to promote music and music education among Palestinian communities.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move that has not been recognized by much of the international community.

It considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

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