Palestinian-American Tortured, Sentenced to Life in Prison by PA for Selling Land to Jews

Issam Akel (Twitter/Wattan News Agency Screenshot)
January 2, 2019

A Palestinian-American was tortured by the Palestinian Authority and then sentenced to life in prison with hard labor this week for the crime of selling land to Jews.

Issam Akel, an East Jerusalem resident and U.S. citizen, was sentenced Monday by a Palestinian court for "attempting to cut off a part of the Palestinian land and adding them to a foreign country," the Jerusalem Post reports. The official news agency of the PA referred to his crime as "selling a house to the enemy in Jerusalem":

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.

Israel's police are investigating the circumstances of Akel's arrest by the PA. There are conflicting reports over whether he was was arrested by Palestinian authorities while in Ramallah or was seized from East Jerusalem. The Post notes he holds an Israeli ID and is immune to prosecution in a PA court.

Shoshanna Keats-Jaskoll, writing in the progressive Jewish publication Forward, said she heard from people in touch with Akel that he was lured to Ramallah under false pretenses and then tortured. His wife and an American official who spoke with him while he was imprisoned also said he was tortured.

A man Keats-Jaskoll called "Ali" testified before the Knesset about his experience with torture at the hands of the Palestinians. He said his captors threw hot water and rotten food at him in a cage, forced him to sit on broken glass and hung him upside down. Ali's crime was collaborating with Israeli security forces, a requirement under the Oslo accords but a violation of hardline Palestinian law.

The case got the attention late last year of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who demanded Akel's release and called his incarceration "antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence."

Keats-Jaskoll added leading left-wing human rights groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and Code Pink had been silent on Akel's treatment by the Palestinians. She also criticized liberal, anti-Israel figures like Marc Lamont Hill and incoming Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for saying nothing on the matter.