A Palestinian court sentenced on Wednesday Palestinian lawmaker Mohammed Dahlan to three years in prison after convicting him in absentia of stealing $16 million.
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Dahlan left the West Bank for the United Arab Emirate in 2011 following a power struggle with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The former high-ranking Fatah official is considered one of the frontrunners to eventually replace 81-year-old Abbas.
The PA anti-corruption court found that Dahlan exploited his position as Security Affairs Coordinator in the PA President’s Office to embezzle approximately $16 million. The court also labeled Dahlan a fugitive from the justice system, and said he could therefore not appeal the ruling until he turns himself in. It also ordered him to pay a fine of $16 million.
Two days ago, Abbas decided to lift the immunity of five members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, most notably Dahlan. Fatah sources say Abbas’ decision will facilitate the arrest and interrogation of parliamentarians associated with Dahlan on suspicion of arms trading, financial crimes and slander, among other offenses.
Dahlan posted a response on his Facebook page, calling for a national commission to investigate the charges, and promised to accept its findings. He denied receiving any money from the Palestinian treasury while he was in charge of security. Dahlan also charged that Abbas has been exploiting the Palestinian legal system to get his political rivals out of the picture.
Fatah field activists warn that Abbas’ moves against Dahlan and other former Fatah members, and attempts to settle scores following the recent Fatah conference (where the Palestinian president exerted total control and Dahlan’s people were ousted), could backfire and end up hurting Fatah and Palestinians in general.