MidEast

Report: PA Looking to Deport U.S. Citizen Convicted of Selling Land to Jews

The Palestinian Authority is looking to deport a United States citizen who was recently sentenced to life imprisonment for selling land to Jews according to a report on Israeli television, The Times of Israel reported Wednesday.

U.S. officials have reportedly been pressuring the PA to release Issam Akel, who is a U.S. citizen and resident of the Beit Hanina neighborhood in Jerusalem. In addition, U.S. authorities have recently visited Akel in prison.

In November, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman characterized Akel’s October arrest as “antithetical to the values of the U.S. and all those who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence.” Ambassador Friedman called for his immediate release.

An unnamed Palestinian official told the Kan Public Broadcaster that the U.S. and the PA have reached an agreement to send Akel to the U.S. after his lawyer files an appeal. The official, speaking for the PA, said, “We want to finish this saga. He has become a burden upon us.”

When asked about the possible extradition of Akel, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem did not answer directly. Instead, she referred to a statement made on Monday by a U.S. official acknowledging familiarity with the case. “We are aware of reports that a US citizen has been sentenced by a Palestinian court. When a US citizen is incarcerated abroad, the US government works to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” the official said.

In 2010, a Palestinian court ruled that the death penalty should be imposed on any Palestinian convicted of selling land to a Jew. Previously, it had been the discretion of the court whether to sentence those convicted to either life in prison or death.

Any death penalty must be approved by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but he has not authorized any executions since 2006.

[Photo: ILTV ISRAEL DAILY / YouTube ]