A Ramallah court has sentenced a Palestinian man to life in prison with hard labour after he was found guilty of selling land in the Old City of Jerusalem to Israeli Jews.
According to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, the Ramallah High Court found the man guilty on Monday of violating a penal code from 1960 that bans the sale of land to a foreign country.
This crime can result in capital punishment under Palestinian law, but President Mahmoud Abbas has never ratified a death sentence.
Israeli media identified the man as Isaam Akel, a Palestinian-American citizen and resident of occupied East Jerusalem.
A source with the court confirmed to AFP news agency the man sentenced was Akel, adding that he could appeal the ruling.
Such sales are considered treasonous among Palestinians concerned with Israeli settlers buying property in annexed East Jerusalem.
The case has stirred controversy since the arrest.
“We are aware of reports that a US citizen has been sentenced by a Palestinian court,” a US official said.
“When a US citizen is incarcerated abroad, the US government works to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”
Following Akel’s detention, Israeli police twice arrested the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Gheith, in connection with their investigation into the matter and raided his office.
In November, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Twitter called Akel’s continuing detention “antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence”.
“We demand his immediate release,” he said.
Israeli captured the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Israel claims Jerusalem as its “undivided capital,” while the Palestinian Authority sees East Jerusalem as the capital of its future state.