After threat from U.S., PA frees businessman who attended Bahrain summit

Palestinian security officers raid homes of other participants.

By YASSIR OKBI
July 1, 2019 02:02
3 minute read.
After threat from U.S., PA frees businessman who attended Bahrain summit

Palestinian Authority police prevent an end-of Ramadan prayer service by supporter of the Hizb-ut Tahrir in Hebron, June 4, 201. (photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA / REUTERS)

 
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Palestinian Authority security forces released Hebron businessman Saleh Abu Mayaleh late on Saturday night, after he had been detained upon his return from the economic conference in Bahrain.

According to Palestinian reports, the decision to release the businessman at 10:45 p.m. followed a threatening letter from the US Embassy.

“We are pleased the PA has released the Palestinian they arrested after attending the Peace to Prosperity workshop,” White House Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt tweeted after the release. “We look fwd to continuing our conversation w all who attended the workshop & anyone else who wants a better future for the Palestinians.”

The PA and several Palestinian factions called on Palestinians and Arabs to boycott the workshop on the pretext that it was part of a US administration scheme to “liquidate the Palestinian cause.”

Palestinian sources said that the businessman, identified as 49-year-old Saleh Abu Mayaleh from Hebron, was arrested by the PA General Intelligence Service headed by Gen. Majed Faraj.

Ashraf Jabari, another businessman from Hebron who attended the workshop as a representative of the The Palestinian Business Network, told The Jerusalem Post that Abu Mayaleh was arrested near his home on Friday, a day after he and the other Palestinians who attended the workshop returned home. According to 45-year-old Jabari, a total of 15 Palestinian businessmen attended.

Jabari told the Post that PA security forces raided the homes of three other Palestinian businessmen in an attempt to arrest them as well.

“The Palestinian security forces did not find them,” Jabari said. “They searched their homes and confiscated security cameras and documents. They told the families of the businessmen that they are wanted for participating in the Bahrain workshop.” Sources in Hebron said that PA intelligence officers raided and searched the home of businessman Ashraf Ghanmen, but he fled his home shortly before officers arrived.

Jabari expressed concern over the safety of Abu Mayaleh, who is also a cancer patient with serious health issues. Jabari, who lives in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron, strongly condemned the arrest of Abu Mayaleh, saying it “exposed the true face” of the PA leadership.

“The Palestinian Authority does not want peace,” he told the Post. “We participated in the conference after receiving personal invitations. We did not go there as representatives of the Palestinian Authority or the people.” He said that he and his colleagues were in touch with the US administration and international human rights organizations concerning the PA crackdown.

In early June, Abu Mayaleh denied that he was planning to attend the workshop. He also denied that he was the owner of a shoe factory that does business with the IDF. In a statement, Abu Mayaleh said that he owns a cement factory, but claimed that his business was confiscated in 2018 by Israeli authorities. Despite the initial denial, Abu Mayaleh was persuaded by Jabari to join the Palestinian delegation to Bahrain.

Last week, Palestinian social media users published the names of Jabari and several of the other Palestinian businessmen, dubbing them “traitors” and urging the PA to arrest them. Jabari asserted that he and the rest of the delegation did not fear the PA. The Bahrain workshop was a “big success and that’s why [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas is very worried,” Jabari said.

“Of course, we’re not afraid,” he said. “We’re afraid only of God, and we are capable of defending ourselves. The PA’s measures against us are illegal. Palestinian law does not ban anyone from attending a conference. This was a personal invitation to many people, and we were not involved in political activities. The PA’s actions show that we don’t have democracy. Even if we belong to the opposition, there’s no reason why we should be arrested. In Israel, the prime minister consults with the leader of the opposition on sensitive issues. Mahmoud Abbas, on the other hand, orders the arrest of anyone who disagrees with him.”

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