Monday, July 27, 2009

Former PA minister released from Israeli custody

Jerusalem - Ma'an - Israel's Interior Ministry on Sunday issued an order preventing former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Hatim Abdul Qader from approaching an area in East Jerusalem for 15 days.

The former official was detained earlier on Sunday, apparently while trying to block more attacks on a home that had earlier been ransacked by a group of rightist settlers.

The order says that Abdul Qader must not approach property allegedly owned by Arieh King, the leader of a local settler group in the occupied city, who accused the official of attacking him and destroying property in the As-Salam neighborhood.

Abdul Qader was interrogated for eight hours at an Israeli police station on Salah Ad-Din Street in East Jerusalem before he was transferred to the Russian compound detention center for questioning by Israel's Shabak intelligence service. He said he refused to answer questions, and was ultimately released for this reason.

The Fatah-affiliated official insisted that the arrest and ban was an arbitrary decision, which he said was aimed at keeping Palestinian figures from hotspots in East Jerusalem. Nevertheless he vowed to continue defending Palestinian residents there.

Another Palestinian and eight foreign solidarity activists were also detained by Israeli forces operating in the area when, according to Ma'an's correspondent, they tried to prevent settlers and police from occupying the home of Darwish Hijazi.

Three of the internationals were identified in a statement to Ma'an as two American nationals and one from the United Kingdom. There was no word on the other five internationals allegedly seized.

A number of local residents reportedly sat on the road leading to the home in an effort to stop Israeli bulldozers moving near the house, and several protesters were injured, according to witnesses.

Dimitri Diliani, spokesman for Fatah in Jerusalem, and Abdul Qader were quoted as saying that residents were adamant about preventing settlers from occupying the Hijazi home.

Diliani added that dozens of Fatah activists had meanwhile managed to expel a group of settlers from a nearby piece of land, while Israeli police nonetheless brought backup forces and threatened to arrest protesters who refused to leave the area.