Ramallah: A Palestinian court sentenced a Palestinian-American man to life in prison Monday over the sale of Jerusalem property to Jewish Israelis, a court source said, in a case that has drawn criticism from the US ambassador.
Issam Akel, accused of involvement in selling an east Jerusalem building to Jewish buyers, was arrested in October and Israeli and US officials have since called for his release.
Official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported the sentence, while identifying the man only as I.A.
A source with the court confirmed to AFP the man sentenced was Akel, adding that he could appeal the ruling.
He was found guilty of selling Palestinian land to a foreign country, WAFA said.
Such sales are considered treasonous among Palestinians concerned with Israeli settlers buying property in annexed east Jerusalem.
The case has stirred controversy since the arrest.
“We are aware of reports that a US citizen has been sentenced by a Palestinian court,” a US official said.
“When a US citizen is incarcerated abroad, the US government works to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”
Following Akel’s detention, Israeli police twice arrested the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Gheith, in connection with their investigation into the matter and raided his office.
In November, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Twitter called Akel’s continuing detention “antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence”.
“We demand his immediate release,” he said.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
It considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
PA activities are barred from Jerusalem by Israel.