PA minister detained, questioned about east Jerusalem activities

“This was a political arrest to appease the extreme Right in Israel,” Minister Fadi al-Hidmi's lawyer, Muhanad Jbarra claimed.

Israeli police officer in east Jerusalem (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Israeli police officer in east Jerusalem
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Jerusalem Police briefly detained Palestinian Authority Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Fadi al-Hidmi on Sunday for what his lawyer said was connected to the visit to the Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary, by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera last week.
A resident of east Jerusalem, Hidmi was one of several Palestinian officials who accompanied Piñera on his tour of the holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Piñera later apologized to President Reuven Rivlin for allowing Palestinian officials to accompany him during the visit.
Israel had approved Piñera’s visit, but the Foreign Ministry presumed he would do so, as is customary, together with representatives of the Jerusalem Wakf Islamic religious trust, which is in charge of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.
Agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians prohibit the PA and its representatives and institutions from operating in Israel, including east Jerusalem.
The Chilean president’s visit there drew criticism from Israel.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that the government “takes seriously any infringement of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, especially one that violates an agreed-upon procedure. We must distinguish between absolute freedom of worship that Israel safeguards and ensuring that our sovereignty over the Temple Mount is not harmed.”
A previous director-general of the (east Jerusalem) Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hidmi was recently appointed minister for Jerusalem affairs in the new PA government headed by Mohammed Shtayyeh. He replaced Adnan Husseini, who, like Hidmi, belongs to a prominent east Jerusalem family.
Since his appointment, the UK-educated Hidmi has been holding meetings with many east Jerusalem residents, merchants, business leaders and political activists to discuss the problems facing Arab neighborhoods.
On Sunday morning, police officers arrived at Hidmi’s home in the neighborhood of al-Suwaneh, near the Mount of Olives, and took him to police headquarters at the Russian Compound.
His lawyer, Muhanad Jbarra, said that Hidmi was interrogated about his activities in the city, including his role in the Chilean president’s visit to the Temple Mount, and was released unconditionally a few hours later.
“This was a political arrest to appease the extreme Right in Israel,” Jbarra claimed.
Shtayyeh said in response to the detention of his cabinet minister that the PA government will “remain committed to its duties toward the holy city and will continue its developmental activities there.”
Shtayyeh accused Israel of targeting any Palestinian “who works for Jerusalem and its people.” He urged the international community to pressure Israel to free the minister. He also called for condemning Israeli policies and measures in Jerusalem, and “ongoing attempts to Judaize the city and forge its identity.”