Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Muhammed Dahlan (right).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Palestinian Authority lawmaker and critic of PA President Mahmoud Abbas was sentenced in absentia Wednesday to three years in prison on corruption charges.
“The Anti-Corruption Crimes Court in Ramallah sentenced Muhammad Dahlan... to three years in prison after convicting him of embezzling $16 million,” Maan News, a Palestinian news outlet, reported on Wednesday.
The court also fined Dahlan $16 million.
Sevag Torossian, one of Dahlan’s lawyers, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the ruling “is a part of President Abbas’s ‘liquidation plan’ at the expense of his opponents.”
Salameh Halaseh, another one of Dahlan’s lawyers, told the AFP that he and his colleagues learned about Wednesday’s hearing on Tuesday.
The corruption charges were originally brought against Dahlan in 2014 at the Anti-Corruption Crimes Court, but the court dismissed them in 2015 on the basis of Dahlan’s parliamentary immunity.
Nonetheless, after the PA Constitutional Court granted Abbas the authority to lift Palestinian Authority parliamentarians’ immunity in November, the 81-year-old leader lifted five parliamentarians’ immunity, including Dahlan’s, on December 12.
The corruption case against Dahlan was then reopened and the Anti-Corruption Crimes Court delivered its verdict on Wednesday.
Dahlan rejected the court’s ruling in a statement to Amad, a Palestinian news site, on Wednesday. “I call for the formation of a special national committee to study the lie of Mahmoud Abbas,” Dahlan said, adding that he pledges to commit to the committee’s findings.
The PA Anti-Corruption Commission did not respond to requests for comment.
Shimrit Meir, the editor-inchief of al-Masdar al-Arabi, an Arab news website, said on Thursday that the Palestinian judicial system is not independent.
“It is quite obvious that there is no independence. While I don’t think there is direct intervention into the workings of the courts, there is a kind of understanding between the executive and judicial branches to take action against Dahlan,” Meir said.
Dahlan and Abbas have been rivals for many years, but in the past four years their rivalry has intensified, with both men accusing the other of corruption and failed leadership.
The Arab Quartet, comprised of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, has reportedly attempted to reconcile the two foes over the past several months.
While Dahlan appears open to reconciliation with Abbas, which would allow him to return to Ramallah, Abbas has made plain that he has no intention of making peace with Dahlan.