By Aaron Klein
JERUSALEM — At least 16 Palestinians are currently in Palestinian Authority prisons for selling property to Jews, KleinOnline has learned.
Nine of the 16 face possible capital punishment for their direct involvement in the land sales, according to PA sources.
The sources said that of the 16 Palestinians incarcerated, seven are employees of the PA, including its security forces.
Most of those in prison are housed in PA jails in Hebron, Jericho and Ramallah. The land sales to Jews include four deals in the region of Hebron, 3 in Jerusalem and one more deal in the West Bank city of Beit El.
The PA sources told KleinOnline that the Palestinian government recently formed a unit with a $2.7 million yearly budget to investigate property sales to Jews as well as any Jewish communities, outposts or military bases that may be sitting on Arab-owned land. The unit works with nongovernmental organizations, including European-funded NGOs.
The number of Palestinians imprisoned for land sales to Jews is much larger than previous reported.
In April, the news media reported the PA sentenced to death former PA intelligence officer Muhammad Abu Shahala for the real estate transaction in the ancient Jewish community of Hebron.
Under the framework of the PAs legal system, selling land to Jews is considered a capital offense.
Officially, the PA denies the reports that it sentenced Shahala to death and has been less than forthcoming about exactly where the former intelligence official is being held.
Dmitry Diliani, a spokesperson for the PA, referred KleinOnline to the Palestinian prison in Hebron, which in turn directed a request to the PA’s Ministry of Justice.
The Justice Ministry did not reply to a request for comment before publication.
According to multiple reports, Shahala was tortured prior to a hasty trial in which he was found guilty of selling his Hebron property to Jews.
Over the years, scores of Palestinians have been put to death in judicial and extrajudicial killings after being accused of land sales to Jews.
Hebron’s Jewish community has been at the forefront of the fight for Shahala’s freedom.
Hebron spokesmen David Wilder and Noam Arnon wrote an appeal addressed to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President of the European Council of the EU Herman Van Rompuy and other international officials.
Wrote Wilder and Arnon: “It is incumbent upon the entire international community, which views Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority as a viable Middle East peace partner, to publicly reject such acts of legal murder, when the ‘crime’ is nothing more than property sales. What would be the reaction to a law in the United States, England, France, or Switzerland, forbidding property sales to Jews?””
Wilder told KleinOnline he didn’t hear back from Clinton, Ban or other international human rights officials contacted about the case.
Wilder said he held a lengthy meeting with the International Red Cross in April at which he presented Shahala’s case and requested assistance. Wilder said the so-called humanitarian group did not act.