Palestinian-American sentenced to life in prison by PA for selling property to Jews

The man, Isaam Akel, was arrested by the PA last October despite holding an Israeli ID card.

A general view of the Damascus Gate, which leads to the Old City's Muslim Quarter, July 21 2017 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A general view of the Damascus Gate, which leads to the Old City's Muslim Quarter, July 21 2017
A Palestinian court in Ramallah sentenced a Palestinian-American to life in prison with hard labor on Monday, after finding him guilty of selling a house in the Old City of Jerusalem to a Jewish Israeli organization.
The man was identified as Issam Akel, a resident of east Jerusalem, who was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces in October.
The story of the incarceration of the 53-year-old Akel, a US citizen, was first reported by The Jerusalem Post earlier this year.
The Palestinian Grand Criminal Court found Akel guilty of “attempting to cut off a part of the Palestinian land and adding them to a foreign country.”
The verdict was issued after a one-week trial.
Akel worked for one of the PA ministries and a hospital in east Jerusalem, according to Palestinian sources.
It remains unclear how he was arrested by PA security forces. As a resident of east Jerusalem, he holds an Israeli ID card that gives him immunity against being arrested or prosecuted in a PA court.
Some reports said that Akel was arrested while he was staying in Ramallah. Other reports, however, claimed that he had been kidnapped from east Jerusalem and taken to Ramallah.
Akel was accused of acting as a broker in the sale of a house jointly owned by the Alami and Halabi families in the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. Palestinians claimed that the house was sold for $500,000 to Ateret Kohanim, a Jewish organization that has been purchasing Arab-owned properties in east Jerusalem for several years.
The PA, the Palestinians said, has frozen the bank accounts of Akel and the two families.
The PA’s official news agency Wafa reported that Akel was convicted of “selling a house to the enemy in Jerusalem.”
The court ruling is part of the PA’s campaign to deter Palestinians from selling properties to Jews – a practice that is punishable by death in accordance with Palestinian law.
Palestinian religious authorities have repeatedly warned against the involvement of Palestinians in real estate transactions with Jews and organizations, saying that anyone who ignores the warning will be accused of “high treason.”
Akel was sentenced in spite of protests from Israel and the US. In November, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman wrote on Twitter that Akel’s incarceration was “antithetical to the values of the US and all those who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence.” He called on the PA to immediately release Akel.

Israel Police has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Akel. As part of the investigation, the police arrested the PA “governor” of Jerusalem, Adnan Gheith, and a senior PA intelligence officer, Jihad Fakih. The two were later released on bail.