NGO to press PA to release U.S. citizen arrested for land sale to Jews

"Due to the heavy concern of human rights violations being perpetuated against the captive by the PA, we ask for his immediate release."

December 16, 2018 19:02
2 minute read.
Palestinians walk near an opening in Israel's barrier in east Jerusalem

Palestinians walk near an opening in Israel's barrier in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of A-tur January 3, 2014.. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)


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The International Legal Forum has started a campaign to get European Union countries and human rights groups to pressure the Palestinian Authority to release an east Jerusalem resident it arrested, who is also a US citizen, for allegedly selling land to Jews.

The Jerusalem Post has obtained letters sent about two weeks ago by the ILF to the EU, UK, Germany and human rights groups, calling on them to use their economic aid to the PA as leverage to obtain Issam Akel’s release.

According to the ILF, the PA’s arrest of Akel on the basis of selling land to Jews – and in light of his status as an east Jerusalem resident as opposed to a West Bank Palestinian resident – violates international law, the Oslo Accords and Israel’s Implementation Law.

ILF director Yifa Segal also accused the PA of torturing Akel and incarcerating him for some two months in conditions that violate international law.

In addition to the letters, the ILF is circulating a petition to rally public pressure on the PA and EU countries.

To date, US Ambassador David Friedman is the only international official who has called for Akel’s release.

On November 28, Friedman tweeted, “The Pal Authority has been holding US citizen Issam 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 ILF wrote, “Due to the heavy concern of human rights violations being perpetuated against the captive by the PA, we ask that the democratic governments of the world… act for his immediate release, as every passing minute might be a death sentence.”

The letter described the abduction of an Israeli resident by the PA with no outcry from Western democratic governments as being highly problematic.

Segal wrote, “It is inconceivable that in the year 2018, over 70 years after the Holocaust, there will still be societies who enforce such racists policies against Jews. Outlawing property ownership by Jews and attempting to impose a death sentence... belongs to the darkest times of human existence.”

The ILF urged the EU countries “to take every step possible, including leveraging the vast support provided by your government to the PA on a regular basis.”

“We fear that a reality where the EU continues to offer its support to the PA government, while remaining silent in the face of such a horrendous reality, will send the wrong message to the PA and to all antisemitic governments and organizations.”

The EU, UK and Germany did not respond to inquiries from the Post by press time.

The Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh first reported the abduction on October 18.

The PA has since continued a public crackdown on the sale of land to Jews. Israel has arrested some Palestinian officials for activity in east Jerusalem and threatened the PA in an attempt to gain Akel’s release.

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