A Palestinian-American man was sentenced to life in prison with hard labor after a Palestinian court found him guilty of selling a house to a Jewish organization.
The Jerusalem Post reported that 53-year-old Issam Akel, a U.S. citizen living in east Jerusalem was arrested last October by Palestinian Authority security forces.
A few months later, the Palestinian Grand Criminal Court convened a one week trial.
The court found that Akel was guilty of “attempting to cut off a part of the Palestinian land and adding them to a foreign country.” There are, at the time, conflicting reports on how and where Akel was arrested.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Akel was a resident of east Jerusalem and held an Israeli identification card. This should have given Akel immunity from being arrested and tried in a PA court.
The Palestinian-American is accused of brokering a deal in which he arranged a sale of a house located in the Muslim Quarter in Old Jerusalem to the Jewish organization Ateret Cohanim.
Palestinians allege that Akel sold the house for $500,000.
Additionally, the Palestinian Authority has frozen Akel’s bank assets and has accused him in their official news agency of “selling a house to the enemy in Jerusalem.”
The verdict came despite a wide array of protests, including from U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
In November, he wrote on Twitter, “The Pal Authority has been holding US citizen Isaam Akel in prison for ~2 months. 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 Pal Authority has been holding US citizen Isaam Akel in prison for ~2 months. 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.
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) November 28, 2018
Additionally, Israeli police have launched their own investigation of the events surrounding Akel’s arrest.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the ruling was set to deter others from selling properties to other Jews and organizations.
The Post wrote, “The court ruling is part of the PA’s campaign to deter Palestinians from selling properties to Jews — a practice that is punishable by death in accordance with Palestinian law.”
Furthermore, religious Palestinian leaders have repeatedly warned other Palestinians that selling properties to Jews will be considered “high treason.”
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