An Israeli Arab resident with U.S. citizenship was abducted by agents from the Palestinian Authority several months ago, and arrested and convicted for the capital crime of selling land to Ateret Cohanim in the Old City of Jerusalem. Now, Issam Akel will allegedly be handed over to the United States, according to a report posted by Israeli journalist Gal Berger.
“We want to end this affair – he has become a burden on us,” a Palestinian Authority source said, according to Berger, who reports for the Hebrew-language Kan public broadcaster.
התפתחות בפרשת סוחר הקרקעות שמכר ליהודים ונשפט למאסר עולם ברשות הפלסטינית. האיש הוא אזרח אמריקני וברשות מתכוונים להסגיר אותו לארצות הברית. גורם פלסטיני: "אנו רוצים לסיים את הפרשה הזו – הוא הפך לנטל עלינו" @galberger #חדשותהערב pic.twitter.com/p5ysC677Lm
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) January 2, 2019
The verdict against Akel, who holds both an Israeli ID card and an American passport and was sentenced to life in prison with hard labor, was handed down last month in a Ramallah courtroom.
Akel’s attorneys were expected to submit an appeal of his prison sentence, Berger reported. His family is expected to visit him Saturday at the prison in Ramallah.
Akel, a resident of the northern Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina, was visited in prison by American officials. A senior Palestinian Authority source told Berger the two sides have not yet reached an agreement on the mechanism and timing for releasing Akel to the United States.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman said in a tweet posted in November that the Palestinian Authority’s incarceration of Akel is “antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence.”
The Pal Authority has been holding US citizen Isaam Akel in prison for ~2 months. His suspected “crime”? Selling land to a Jew. Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence. We demand his immediate release.
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) November 28, 2018
Israel also exerted a great deal of pressure on the Palestinian Authority to gain Akel’s release. Israel Police arrested Adnan Rit, the PA “governor” of the Jerusalem District, for the third time in November alone for his role in Akel’s detention.
The Palestinian Authority has recently arrested 44 Arabs and accused them of selling land to Jews – considered a crime punishable by the death penalty in Ramallah and for which suspects are tortured and can be incarcerated without trial for lengthy periods.