The Palestinian minister that has been suspected of sexually harassing an employee was revealed to be Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Fatah member and the person in charge of the civilian and security coordination with Israel.
Due to the sensitive nature of his role, al-Sheikh is considered to be Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ appointee, rather than that of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
On Monday, Haaretz reported that Abbas has ordered an investigation into a senior minister in Fayyad’s cabinet suspected of sexually harassing a female employee.
Al-Sheikh posted a status on Facebook on Tuesday morning, saying that he will hold “whoever is behind this campaign accountable,” within the limits of the law. The Palestinian minister explained that he cannot keep silent any longer over the false rumors being spread against him.
Al-Sheikh denied the allegations, however he refused to elaborate on the suspicion and said no formal committee of inquiry was formed. Abbas’ Fatah movement also issued a statement denying such committee was appointed.
According to the employee, the incident occurred last week. The woman said it was her husband, a member of Fatah and a former Israeli prisoner, who demanded that the Palestinian Authority open an investigation.
She said Al-Sheikh tried to sexually assault her while working in the office and later sent numerous sexually-explicit text messages. The worker added that she kept the messages on her cell phone.
The worker’s husband is considered to be close to al- Sheikh and was appointed by the minister as a “General Manager” in the ministry, as part of an Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigade former activist’s rehabilitation program. The husband is also friends with Al-Sheikh on Facebook and the Civil Affairs Ministry is listed as his workplace.
After senior officials in Abbas' office informed the PA president of the complaint, he directed current and former senior Fatah officials, including West Bank Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj and former intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi, to investigate.
In the past, the minister was suspected of sexually abusing a minor. When the suspicions first arose, the suspect responded by saying it was a conspiracy by associates of Mohammed Dahlan, a former senior PA official now openly at odds with Abbas.
On Sunday, Al-Sheikh reiterated this claim with regard to the new complaint. "It's an effort by Dahlan's group to frame me," he told Haaretz. "They're trying to harm our image. It's all rumors. Where is the complaint? Where is the complaint of the women who went to the police? This whole story is lies and rubbish. There's no investigation."
Despite the minister's claims, senior Fatah and PA officials verified the details, but said their publication could harm the investigation.
Sources close to the minister claimed that the woman's relatives met with the minister recently and believe his story. It's her husband who is trying to extort the PA through his wife's complaint, they charged, and he has changed his version of events several times.
The husband posted Haaretz’s report, translated by the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, on his Facebook profile. Later, he wrote: “My wife and I had decided to keep silent no more … We will not rest and nor give up … I did what every free man would have done when subjected to such harassment, in effort to bring the peoples justice to this corrupt, drunk gambler.”
In 2010, Abbas dismissed his bureau chief, Rafiq Husseini, after Israel’s Channel 10 published footage filmed by Palestinian intelligence that showed Husseini trying to get a woman to have sex with him by promising her a job in Abbas' bureau and other benefits.
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