Abbas sues Palestinian editor for libel

Editor called PA chairman mafia leader, accused him of financial corruption.

abbas 298  (photo credit: AP [file])
abbas 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has filed a libel suit against a prominent Palestinian editor who called him a mafia leader and accused him of financial corruption. The case against Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, was filed with a PA magistrate's court in Ramallah by Abbas's sons, Tarek and Yasser. This is the first time that Abbas has filed a libel suit against a journalist. The court issued a subpoena to compel Atwan to appear before it on June 26, 2006, to present his defense. It's not clear at this stage whether Atwan, who lives in London, will comply. The court warned Atwan that he may be charged with contempt of court and subjected to civil penalties if he fails to appear. The provocative editor, who was born in the refugee camp of Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip, has been living in London for the past 30 years and is a familiar face on British and American television. Over the past decade he has published several articles attacking former PA chairman Yasser Arafat and his top aides, accusing them of financial corruption and of making too many concessions to Israel by signing the Oslo Accords. In recent months Atwan has repeatedly launched scathing attacks on Abbas, holding him responsible for corruption and anarchy in the PA. In an editorial last March, entitled "Abbas is playing with fire," he urged the PA chairman to resign. Referring to the January parliamentary election, which saw Hamas win a majority of votes, Atwan wrote: "Abbas has only two choices: to accept the results of the election and the Hamas government or to call an international press conference and announce the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority and retire to one of his houses in Gaza, Ramallah or Amman. Or he could go to a museum and try to revive the PLO mummy." In another editorial on the election, Atwan wrote: "The Israeli and American pressures are escalating in order to prevent the Islamic resistance movement Hamas from coming into power and implementing its electoral program, on the basis of which it had won the majority of the seats at the legislative council. It is too bad that these pressures are directly supported by the head of the authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and [by] some of the corruption mafia leaders that were brought down by the Palestinian people, who took their revenge in the polls during the last elections." In another editorial earlier this year, Atwan strongly criticized Abbas for failing to prevent the IDF raid on the Jericho prison where the assassins of tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi were being held. "Logic says that after the raid on the Jericho prison Mahmoud Abbas should not only have cut short his visit to Europe and returned to Ramallah immediately to manage the crisis, but he should have announced his resignation and the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority," he wrote. Atwan went on to insinuate that Abbas had colluded with the US and Israel to facilitate the raid.