Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas revoked on Monday the immunity of five Fatah parliamentarians, paving the way for the public prosecutor to complete an investigation into allegations against them.
“Following the request of the prosecutor general and in accordance with the decision of the Constitutional Court, the president lifted the immunity of five parliamentarians to complete an investigation into accusations [against them],” Hassan al-Aouri, Abbas’s legal affairs advisor told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
PA Public Prosecutor Ahmad Barak recently opened an investigation into a number of allegations against the five parliamentarians, who Aouri named as Muhammed Dahlan, Shami al-Shami, Najat Abu Bakr, Nasser Juma, and Jamal Tirawi.
The details of the investigation remain unclear, but Palestinian news outlets reported that it relates to “money laundering and illegal weapons trade.”
In a November ruling, the PA Constitutional Court, which Abbas controversially formed in April, granted the PA president the authority to revoke immunity from parliamentarians.
“PA President Mahmoud Abbas is not overstepping his authority in issuing legal decisions to revoke the immunity of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council while it is not in session,” the court ruling read.
Dahlan, who resides in self-imposed exile, is Abbas’s chief rival and has accused the PA president of corruption and failed leadership.
Dahlan’s immunity was previously revoked ahead of another investigation in 2012.
The other four parliamentarians are known to have close ties to Dahlan and have consistently expressed criticism of Abbas’s leadership. Most recently, they lambasted Abbas for excluding them from the 7th Fatah General Congress, a Fatah leadership meeting, in late November and early December.
PA officials have accused Dahlan and some of the other parliamentarians being investigated of stirring unrest in the West Bank, especially in its refugee camps.
One of the parliamentarians being investigated told the Post that unofficial parties informed him of the decision to revoke his immunity.
“While official parties have not informed me of the decision to lift my immunity, unofficial parties have,” the parliamentarian said without revealing the identity of the unofficial parties.
The parliamentarian added that he rejects the decision.
“The lifting of my immunity is illegal—it is does not matter if the president or anyone else makes such a decision,” the parliamentarian added. “The only body that can make such a decision is the Palestinian parliament.
“This decision proves that there are efforts to undermine free speech—the president wants to suppress any criticism directed against his leadership.”
Jihad Harb, a Palestinian analyst and researcher, told the Post that Abbas strategically made the decision after the Fatah Congress.
“Following his reelection as Fatah chairman at the 7th Fatah General Congress, Abbas seemingly has gained the confidence to implement a recent decision of the Constitutional Court, which allows him to lift immunity of parliamentarians,” Harb said.
The Constitutional Court is widely seen as a mechanism that enables Abbas to undermine his opponents including Dahlan and his supporters.
Harb added that the decision will likely prevent other parliamentarians from making future criticisms of the executive branch.
“This decision disincentives parliamentarians from undertaking oversight of the executive branch and expressing criticisms for the public’s benefit.”