PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday fired the director of his bureau, Rafik Husseini, who was involved in a sex scandal that rocked the Palestinian territories earlier this year.
Abbas’s decision to sack Husseini, one of the most influential officials in the Palestinian Authority, was taken in accordance with the findings of a special commission of inquiry that was established to look into the scandal, which has become known as “Fatahgate.”
The scandal erupted when a former PA intelligence official, Fahmi Shabaneh, revealed in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post two months ago a videotape showing Husseini naked in the bedroom of a Palestinian woman.
Husseini was also heard in the videotape bad-mouthing Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat.
In one clip he’s seen sitting in the woman’s living room and saying that Abbas lacks charisma. He’s also heard calling one of Abbas’s wealthy sons, Yasser, a “crook.”
In another clip, Husseini denounces Arafat as “one of the biggest swindlers.”
Shabaneh, who was in charge of the anti-corruption unit in the PA’s General Intelligence Service, said that the woman had complained to him that Husseini was trying to exploit her sexually.
Based on the recommendations of the commission of inquiry, Abbas instructed the PA security services to destroy all material implicating Palestinians in sexual and moral offenses, including videotapes and audio recordings.
The PA president also instructed his security forces to refrain from “violating or intruding into the privacy” of Palestinians.
Husseini and senior Abbas aides initially claimed that the videotape had been “fabricated” and that Shabaneh was a “collaborator” with Israel.
However, the commission of inquiry, which Abbas established after the sex tape was broadcast on Channel 10, did not find any evidence of Israeli involvement in the scandal.
In fact, the three-man commission held Shabaneh’s former boss, Tawfik Tirawi, responsible and recommended that he be kept out of any official position in the PA.
The commission found that Tirawi, then commander of the General Intelligence Service, had authorized the secret filming of Husseini.
Tirawi, who today is head of the Palestinian “Military Academy,” claimed in recent weeks that he knew nothing about the sex scandal, accusing Shabaneh of “collaboration” with Israel.
The commission’s findings are seen as a victory for Shabaneh, who has insisted all along that the videotape was authentic and that he had acted on instructions from Tirawi.
The commission heard testimonies from scores of Palestinians who were involved, directly and indirectly, in the scandal. The only person who did not appear before the commission was the man who exploded the scandal: Shabaneh.
Shabaneh told the Post that the commission summoned him a few weeks ago to Abbas’s presidential Mukata compound in Ramallah to hear his version.
“I told them that Israel has banned me from entering the West Bank and
that I’m prepared to meet the commission members anywhere else, but
they didn’t come back to me,” he said.
Shabaneh lives in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of northeast Jerusalem, which is not under the jurisdiction of the PA.
“Besides, I found it strange that I’m being invited to show up at the
Mukata when the Palestinian Authority has already condemned me as a
traitor and issued an arrest warrant against me. They could not provide
me with guarantees for my personal security,” he said.
Shabaneh said he also found it strange that the commission of inquiry
did not look into allegations he made against other senior officials in
the PA regarding financial and administrative corruption.