In the first case of its kind since the establishment of Hamas, a top official of the Islamist movement has been arrested on suspicion of “financial and moral corruption,” sources in the Gaza Strip said Tuesday.
The sources named the official as Ayman Taha, a former spokesman for Hamas and the son of one of the founders of the Palestinian Islamist movement.
The sources told the Albawabhnews.com website that Taha was arrested for his involvement in a “large corruption case.”
The sources said that other senior Hamas officials suspected of involvement in the case may also be arrested.
According to the sources, Taha had previously been caught with a married woman in an apartment in the center of the Gaza Strip.
Other sources said that Taha was arrested two weeks ago after he purchased a villa in Gaza City, raising suspicion as to the source of his inflated and sudden wealth.
Another newspaper, Rai al-Youm, reported that Taha was arrested by members of Hamas’s military wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, as he tried to escape to Egypt.
It said that the Hamas militiamen stopped Taha as he was traveling near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip and took him to an undisclosed location. He was apparently on his way to Egypt.
The paper said that the security forces belonging to the Hamas Interior Ministry were not involved in the arrest and investigation of Taha.
It said that Taha was also being interrogated about the circumstances surrounding a European country’s approval of his request for emigration.
The affair has been surrounded with secrecy and even senior Hamas officials have been denied access to information about the interrogation of Taha, the paper said.
In addition to his post as spokesman, Taha was also in charge of coordination between Hamas and Egypt. Following the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he moved to Cairo, where he served as Hamas’s unofficial representative to Egypt.
Islam Shahwan, spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry, denied that security officers belonging to his ministry had been involved in the arrest of Taha.
Asked if Hamas had arrested Taha, Shahwan said that he was authorized to speak only on behalf of his ministry.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said he was unaware that Taha had been arrested, and that he did not know anything about his whereabouts.