Text size

Al Quds University President Dr. Sari Nusseibeh was arrested yesterday for employing Palestinians without proper entry permits. He was later released on bail.

Border Police officers raided the university's branch in Beit Hanina, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, early yesterday in a hunt for Palestinians residing illegally in Israel. Four Palestinians, a builder and three workers who were without proper permits, were found at the offices. The four were also taken in for questioning.

Nusseibeh took responsibility for employing the men, and was taken in for questioning by Jerusalem police.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Border Police on patrol stopped to check the documents of four Palestinian workers at Al Quds University, whom they suspected were in Israel illegally. The workers fled to the university's administration building, and Nusseibeh came out and told police he was responsible for the men, Ben-Ruby said.

MK Yossi Sarid (Yahad) called for Nusseibeh's immediate release, saying "as far as I remember, there is no precedent for arresting the Jewish employer of illegal residents. Even if Nusseibeh employed illegal residents, this is not a good enough reason to detain him."

Sarid called Nusseibeh a symbol of moderation. "Moderate and responsible figures such as Sari Nusseibeh deserve attention and not to have police officers as his counterparts for talks," he said.

Nusseibeh, formally the PLO official responsible for Jerusalem, is co-sponsor of the "People's Voice" peace initiative, along with former Shin Bet security services director Ami Ayalon. The plan envisions a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and the two have collected tens of thousands of signatures.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Paul Patin said U.S. officials were aware of Nusseibeh's arrest, "and we're trying to find out what's going on."

Nusseibeh's lawyer, Jawad Bolous, said the police had initially refused to let him see his client. He was later allowed to meet with Nusseibeh, who told him he had yet to be questioned more than two and a half hours after his arrest.

Labor Party lawmaker Yuli Tamir called the arrest "political harassment," and accused the hard-line government of trying to silence Nusseibeh.

"He really represents a very, very deep and sincere desire for a peaceful solution to the Middle East, and I feel it is my duty to try and save him from this kind of harassment," she said.

A handful of peace activists stood outside holding up signs reading: "Release the voice of peace."