Abbas Strips Rivals of Immunity, Clearing Way for Their Arrest

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Palestinian supporters of former head of Fatah in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, hold posters depicting Dahlan (R) during a protest against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City December 18, 2014.Credit: Reuters

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stripped five Palestinian legislators of their parliamentary immunity on Monday, with the most prominent being his long-time bitter rival, Mohammed Dahlan.

Sources in Abbas’ Fatah party said the decision will enable the five parliamentarians to be arrested and questioned. The sources said all five are suspected of various crimes, including arms dealing, financial crimes and libel.

Though Dahlan was recently expelled from Fatah, the other four parliamentarians are all Fatah members. They are Jamal Tirawi, a prominent activist from the Balata refugee camp in Nablus who has often challenged PA institutions; Shami al-Shami; Najat Abu Bakr and Nasser Juma.

“There’s no doubt this is another move in the fierce battle between Abu Mazen and Dahlan,” one senior Fatah official said, referring to Abbas by his nickname. Now that Abbas has managed to expel Dahlan from Fatah, “there’s an effort to keep him from any political activity in the Palestinian arena by hurling harsh accusations of bribery and arms dealing at him,” the official added.

Dahlan left the West Bank in 2011 due to his fight with Abbas. He currently lives in the United Arab Emirates.

Last week, Abbas succeeded in barring Dahlan supporters from Fatah’s seventh general conference and getting his own loyalists elected to party institutions. But Dahlan continues to challenge Abbas from abroad, and has close ties with several Arab capitals.

Cairo in particular has recently demonstrated its support for Dahlan by acceding to his request for various steps to ease life in the Gaza Strip, most notably opening the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

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