PA arrests 6 aides of Hamas speaker

Men nabbed after press event held by speaker Dwaik, most senior Hamas official in W. Bank.

By
January 25, 2010 02:55
3 minute read.
PLC Speaker Aziz Dwaik (right) meets UK millionair

aziz dwaik 311. (photo credit: Khaled Abu Toameh)

 
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Palestinian Authority security agents on Sunday arrested six men who work as aides to Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Speaker Aziz Dwaik.



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The men were arrested in Ramallah shortly after a press conference held by Dwaik, who is Hamas's most senior representative in the West Bank.



They were taken into custody after the agents, who belong to the PA's General Intelligence Service, intercepted two cars carrying Dwaik and Hamas legislator Mahmoud Ramahai in Ramallah.



The six were identified as Firas Abed, Baha Farah, Khaldoun Mazloum, Murad Abu Baha, Ibrahim al-Sabi and Abdullah Ghanem.



Dwaik condemned the arrest of his aides as "an act of piracy" and "an assault on his parliamentary immunity." He also warned that the arrests could harm efforts by some Arab countries to achieve "national reconciliation" between Hamas and Fatah.



Dwaik urged PA President Mahmoud Abbas to "halt the process of lies and misinformation" regarding his desire to end the conflict with Hamas. He added that the arrests were an indication of the "continued moral, political and security deterioration of the Palestinian Authority policies in the West Bank."





The PLC speaker expressed fear that the latest move against his staff was part of a wider scheme aimed at launching a new offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.



The arrests were prompted by Dwaik's announcement during the press conference that the PLC would not be dissolved when its four-year mandate expires on Monday. Dwaik also called for holding a new session of the PLC in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the request of one-quarter of the legislators.



The PLC has not been able to meet over the past few years due to the crisis between Hamas and Fatah.



Dwaik urged PA President Mahmoud Abbas to "halt the process of lies and misinformation" regarding his desire to end the conflict with Hamas. He added that the arrests were an indication of the "continued moral, political and security deterioration of the Palestinian Authority policies in the West Bank."



The PLC speaker expressed fear that the latest move against his staff was part of a wider scheme aimed at launching a new offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.



The arrests were prompted by Dwaik's announcement during the press conference that the PLC would not be dissolved when its four-year mandate expires on Monday. Dwaik also called for holding a new session of the PLC in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the request of one-quarter of the legislators.



The PLC has not been able to meet over the past few years due to the crisis between Hamas and Fatah.



Dwaik justified the decision to extend the mandate of the PLC by arguing that it ends only when newly-elected members of the parliament are sworn in.



He also stressed the need to end divisions among the Palestinians and the formation of a Hamas-Fatah unity government. He said that such a government was needed to prepare for new presidential and parliamentary elections.



Dwaik and many Hamas legislators and officials were arrested by Israel shortly after the abduction of IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit. However, most of them were released in the past few months.



Since Abbas's term in office expired in January 2009, Dwaik is seen by many Palestinians as acting president of the PA because the Palestinian constitution states clearly that the speaker of parliament would serve in the post for 60 days pending new elections.



But since his release from Israeli prison several months ago, the PA leadership has banned Dwaik from returning to work in his office at the PLC headquarters in Ramallah.



Dwaik's call to convene the PLC was immediately rejected by the PA leadership. Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah legislator and close advisor to Abbas, said that the parliament should first determine its position toward Hamas's "coup" against the PA in the Gaza Strip.



He said that Fatah legislators were now holding consultations with other parliamentary lists to convene a special session to condemn the Hamas maneuver. Al-Ahmed strongly criticized Dwaik as one of the icons of the alleged coups and said he was "incompetent" to play any role in mediation efforts between Hamas and Fatah.



A senior aide to Abbas said he did not rule out the possibility that Dwaik and other Hamas legislators would be arrested "if they continued their provocations and attempts to undermine the status of the Palestinian Authority." He noted that as of Monday the Hamas legislators would not be able to hide behind their parliamentary immunity.



The decision to arrest Dwaik's aides also came less than 48 hours after the PA expressed concern over contacts between Westerners and Hamas. The PA was responding to a meeting last week between Dwaik and British businessman David Martin Abrahams in Hebron.



Abrahams said he came to see Dwaik and other Hamas leaders as part of a mission to facilitate dialogue between the Islamist movement and the international community. A PA official in Ramallah warned that such meetings were causing damage to the peace process and undermining the standing of Abbas and Fatah.

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