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December 5, 2013 4:54 pm

As Kerry Visits Jerusalem, PA Police Arrest Outspoken Businessman for Calling for Abbas’s Downfall

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Palestinian Authority police raiding Canadian investor Mohamed Al Sabawi's Ramallah office. Photo: Screenshot / Wattan TV YouTube video / Gatestone Institute.

Palestinian Authority police raiding Canadian investor Mohamed Al Sabawi's Ramallah office. Photo: Screenshot Gatestone Institute.

As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visits Jerusalem on Thursday, reports about the Palestinian Authority intimidation and arrest of a Canadian businessman in Ramallah for criticizing PA President Mahmoud Abbas overshadow the U.S. plan for economic aid as part of a proposed peace deal.

In a research note on Thursday, the Gatestone Institute related the reports of the arrest this week of Mohamed Al Sabawi, 68, a Canadian investor from the Palestinian territories, who was arrested by Palestinian Authority policemen in Ramallah after publicly criticizing the Abbas regime.

Al Sabawi is Director-General of the Ahlia Insurance Group, which employs hundreds of Arabs in the Palestinian territories. Gatestone researcher Khaled Abu Toameh wrote, “His arrest is seen as part of a campaign by the Palestinian Authority to intimidate and extort money from prominent and wealthy businessmen who seek to help strengthen the Palestinian economy.”

Abu Toameh said Palestinian Authority police raided Al Sabawi’s office and arrested him on allegations that he had called for the toppling of Abbas. He was held for nine hours by police in Ramallah, where he was accused of “insulting” Abbas and “obstructing” the work of police officers. The second charge related to an incident on November 18, when the Palestinian Authority’s Presidential Guard stormed the Ahlia Insurance Group offices to occupy the roof to secure the visit of French President François Hollande to Ramallah.

Al Sabawi tried to prevent the security officers from entering the building, but to no avail. Frustrated, he declared in front of TV news crews, “The people want the downfall of Mahmoud Abbas!”

Gatestone’s Abu Toameh wrote:

It is not unusual for the Palestinian Authority to crack down on Palestinians who dare to criticize Abbas. Over the past few years, a number of Palestinian journalists, bloggers and politicians have been targeted by the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank for publicly criticizing Abbas, especially through social media networking. But clamping down on journalists and bloggers is not the same as arresting or intimidating businessmen and investors. The case of Al Sabawi will undoubtedly scare potential investors and convince them that investing in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities is a dangerous idea.

Khaled Al Sabawi, his son, named “One of the World’s Top Energy Entrepreneurs” by Global Post in 2010, said that his father was released as a result of “enormous pressure” on the Palestinian Authority after being held for nine hours.

Khaled, who spent the whole nine hours with his father in the police station in Ramallah, wrote that the arrest “goes to show that the US Kerry Plan to bring $4 billion in private investment to the Palestinians territories is nonsense! Come and invest in the PA areas, but if you don’t bribe their corrupt officials, the PA will arrest you.”

Khaled Al Sabawai concluded:

This arrest was an attempt to humiliate my father – an independent investor who employs hundreds of Palestinians and has invested in renewable energy and expanding property rights for Palestinians. What the unelected, cynical, and morally bankrupt cronies in Mahmoud Abbas’s office don’t realize is that they just completely humiliated themselves and that this issue has made us stronger, more vigilant, and with your help, given us a bigger microphone.

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