JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian man who holds American citizenship was sentenced to life in prison for selling land in eastern Jerusalem to a Jewish Israeli.
Issam Akel was sentenced Monday by a Palestinian Authority court in Ramallah. Akel, 53, was arrested three months ago. His family says he was tortured during questioning.
The life sentence also includes hard labor. He can appeal, a Palestinian judiciary official told Reuters.
It is illegal under Palestinian Authority law to sell land to “a hostile state or any of its citizens.” Selling land requires PA permission
Akel, a resident of Bethlehem, had worked for the PA. He is accused of being a middleman between the Palestinian owner of the home located in the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and a Jewish organization that purchased it, New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who has met with Akel’s wife, said in November. Palestinian officials have not identified the buyer.
Akel lived in the United States for 12 years. As an eastern Jerusalem resident he also holds a blue Israeli identification card. His four siblings and their families continue to reside in the U.S.
Akel’s family denies that he tried to sell the land.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, in late November called on the PA to immediately release Akel.