“We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen has been sentenced by a Palestinian court,” a U.S. government official said.
By David Isaac, World Israel News
“The Ramallah Grand Criminal Court sentenced a Palestinian identified only by his initials I.A. to life in prison with hard labor after it found him guilty of selling Palestinian land to a foreign country,” Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Monday.
The “unidentified” Palestinian is, in fact, Issam Akel, an Arab who holds American citizenship and an Israeli identification card. He had been kidnapped by the Palestinian Authority after being charged with helping to sell an Arab-owned house to Jews.
He was brought before the court on Dec. 23, according to the Wafa report, and sentenced for “selling property in occupied Jerusalem to Jewish settlers.”
“We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen has been sentenced by a Palestinian court,” a U.S. government official said, according to the Arutz 7 news site. “When a U.S. citizen is incarcerated abroad, the U.S. government works to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”
On Nov. 28, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman demanded that the Palestinian Authority (PA) release Akel.
“The Palestinian Authority has been holding U.S. citizen Issam Akel in prison for ~2 months. His suspected ‘crime’? Selling land to a Jew,” Friedman tweeted at the time.
The sale of land to Jews in Palestinian society is considered a religious offense as well as treason and can be punishable by death. Death sentences must be approved by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who has been reluctant to do so, favoring prison terms. The reason may be fear of international opprobrium, according to Arutz 7.
The PA’s crackdown on Arabs selling land to Jews has reached the point that the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem Aryeh Stern, issued an unprecedented halachic (Jewish legal) ruling declaring that Israel has an obligation to help free Palestinians imprisoned on such charges.