US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman called on the Palestinian Authority Wednesday to release from custody an American citizen who is suspected of selling property in East Jerusalem to Jewish Israelis.
The arrest in October of the Palestinian-American, whom Friedman and Hebrew-language news outlets have named as Issam Akel, is said to have prompted Israel to arrest the Palestinian governor of East Jerusalem, in an attempt to pressure the PA to release him.
He is reportedly being held in custody in Ramallah.
“The Pal Authority has been holding US citizen Isaam Akel in prison for ~2 months,” Friedman tweeted. “His suspected ‘crime’? Selling land to a Jew. Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence. We demand his immediate release.”
The Jerusalem resident had been 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 at the time.
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.
PA courts have previously sentenced Palestinians to death for selling land to Jews. Since 2005, however, the PA has not carried out any executions.
On Sunday, Israel Police arrested Adnan Ghaith, the PA governor of Jerusalem for the second time in as many months, with Hebrew-language media reporting that authorities were investigating the governor following Akel’s arrest.
On October 20, Ghaith was detained for two days of questioning before being released, with the Shin Bet domestic security agency saying it was over “illegal activity by the (Palestinian Authority) in Jerusalem.”
Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in a move that is not recognized internationally, almost entirely does not allow the PA to operate within Jerusalem.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.