TEL AVIV – A Palestinian Authority court in Ramallah on Monday sentenced Issam Akel, a Palestinian-American resident of eastern Jerusalem, to life in prison with hard labor for his involvement in the sale of land to Israeli Jews in Jerusalem.
Isam Akel was sentenced to life in prison for attempting “to annex part of the Palestinian lands to a foreign state,” the PA judiciary’s website said.
“In light of the conviction, the court handed down a life sentence with hard labor,” the statement continued said.
Akel can appeal the sentence, a judiciary official said.
In addition to being an American passport holder, Akel also carries an Israeli identification card.
A U.S. official said he was aware of the sentencing.
“We are aware of reports that a US citizen has been sentenced by a Palestinian court. When a U.S. citizen is incarcerated abroad, the U.S. government works to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” the official said in a statement.
Akel was arrested on October 11 and has remained in detention ever since. The PA denied claims of abduction, saying Akel came of his own accord. However, Akel’s wife, Mariam, told Breitbart News that her husband was lured to Ramallah under the pretense of signing paperwork.
According to Akel’s wife, he was held for more than a week from the time of his arrest before she was given any information pertaining to his whereabouts.
The Jerusalem Post cited Palestinian sources as saying Akel worked for the PA Ministry for Local Government and was suspected of receiving $25,000 in commission for his role as “solicitor” in the sale of a house in Jerusalem’s flashpoint Old City.
Last month, 32 Arab residents of Jerusalem with Israeli IDs were arrested by Israel on suspicion of working with the PA security forces in violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords. The suspects’ homes were raided by police, who found large stashes of both shekels and foreign currency, weapons, Palestinian police-issued ID cards, military equipment and uniforms, and various certificates, photographs and documents.
The sting was reportedly part of a wider undercover operation aimed at targeting eastern Jerusalem residents involved in preventing the sale of houses to Israeli Jews — an offense that carries the death sentence in Palestinian society. Earlier this month, the offices of the PA Ministry for Jerusalem Affairs, headed by Adnan al-Husseini, were also raided by Israeli security officials who seized computers and documents purportedly showing the illegal PA activity in eastern Jerusalem.
In November, President Donald Trump’s envoy to Israel, David Friedman, demanded the PA release Akel.
Ambassador Friedman, who was recently charged with U.S. relations with the Palestinians in addition to his role as top diplomat in Israel, tweeted:
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
Cabinet Minister and former Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren at the time called on human rights groups to condemn the PA and contended that failure to do constituted “racism.”
“I call on all the world’s human rights groups to condemn the Palestinian Authority for the incarceration of Isam Akel,” Oren told Breitbart News.
“Any government that would incarcerate anybody for selling land to Jews would be accused of anti-semitism and racism. So why aren’t the so-called defenders of human rights doing just that? Not doing so is in itself racist.”
“This man is basically being imprisoned for selling land to Jews and could be executed for it, it’s a capital offense,” Oren told Breitbart News.
“In any other place in the world this would be considered rank anti-Semitism and racism. Imagine if someone were sentenced to death for selling land to Jews in New York. It’s preposterous,” he said.
To top it off, Oren added, this was happening in “our ancestral capital.”
“It’s not selling land to Jews in Jenin, it’s selling lands to Jews in Jerusalem,” he said.