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Israel detains suspects involved with murder of Arab land dealer

JERUSALEM, May 15 (JTA) — An Israeli court has authorized the continued custody of a Palestinian man and woman suspected of involvement in the murder of an Arab land dealer who sold land to Jews. The body of 70-year-old Farid Bashiti of eastern Jerusalem was found in the Palestinian self-rule town of Ramallah last week and was turned over by the Palestinian Authority to Israeli forensic experts. An autopsy showed that Bashiti had been beaten, and his skull crushed. The murder followed a Palestinian Authority decision that selling land to Jews was an offense punishable by death. Israeli investigators said they suspected that Palestinian security agents could have been involved in the murder. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking in a meeting with the visiting Norwegian foreign minister Thursday, was quoted as saying that Israel would have to take steps if the Palestinian Authority did not halt its policy of murdering Arabs who sold land to Jews. He did not specify what steps. Israeli officials said Bashiti, who had Israeli citizenship, had apparently been lured or forcibly taken to Ramallah. One of the suspects whose remand was extended Thursday was Nadia Davash, a 33-year-old eastern Jerusalem resident who allegedly met Bashiti in an eastern Jerusalem hotel hours before his body was found in Ramallah. The second suspect was identified as Yasser Anani, a Palestinian police officer. The court banned publication of details of the investigation. Bashiti’s family was expected to bury his body near Nebi Moussa, near Jericho. His family encountered difficulties finding a cemetery to bury him after Palestinian Authority clergymen in Jerusalem, citing a fatwa, or religious ruling, declared that Bashiti was an infidel for selling land to Jews, and could not be buried in a Muslim cemetery. The clergy barred him from being interred on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The family later canceled plans to bury Bashiti in the Muslim cemetery in Jaffa, saying that they had been threatened not to do so.

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