Israel arrests Palestinian cultural leaders, raids centers

A woman walks past the Yabous Cultural centre that was raided today by Israeli police and tax investigators in east Jerusalem, on July 22, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 22 July 2020

Israel arrests Palestinian cultural leaders, raids centers

  • Rania Elias and her husband Suhail Khoury were detained at their home in Jerusalem
  • The couple was “detained on charges of financing terrorist organizations”

JERUSALEM: Israeli police arrested two prominent Palestinian cultural leaders on Wednesday at their home in east Jerusalem on a suspicion of “funding terrorism,” their lawyer and police said.
Rania Elias, who heads the Yabous Cultural Center and her husband Suhail Khoury, Director General of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, were detained at their home in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood.
The Yabous center and the conservatory were also raided by police and Israeli tax investigators, with documents confiscated.
The Palestine Liberation Organization condemned the arrests and raids as part of “Israel’s violent and systematic campaign against Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem.”
According to Elias’s lawyer Nasir Odeh, the couple was “detained on charges of financing terrorist organizations.”
But he stressed that Israel’s broad anti-terrorism laws include a wide range of offenses, including accepting money from organizations that the Jewish state has labelled as “terrorist.”
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement that police, with tax authorities, detained “three suspects... in connection with tax evasion and fraud,” without mentioning the individuals by name.
It confirmed the searches “at two organizations that were run in east Jerusalem claiming that they were involved in Palestinian culture.”
Rosenfeld said the individuals were being questioned and the investigation was ongoing.
His statement makes no mention of terror-related offenses.
But Odeh sent AFP documents given to his client by police ahead of their detention, which indicate they were “under suspicion of money laundering (and) funding terror.”
The Yabous Cultural Center in east Jerusalem was established in the mid 1990s with a mandate to celebrate Palestinian culture and Arab heritage in the city.
The conservatory, named after the late Palestinian intellectual Said, has branches in Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank.
Its mandate is to promote music and music education among Palestinian communities.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
It considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.


UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

Updated 30 October 2020

UK summons Iran envoy as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to jail

  • Husband Richard Ratcliffe: Iran has ordered Nazanin to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab: Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen”

LONDON: Britain on Friday warned Iran against throwing detained woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe back in jail, after hauling in Tehran’s envoy for a dressing-down over her emotive case.
The Foreign Office summoned Ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad on Thursday to hear renewed demands from a senior official for an end to the British-Iranian captive’s “arbitrary detention.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC radio Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in a “horrific position,” after her husband said Iran has ordered her to report to court for a new trial on Monday and then back to jail.
Britain has made it clear to Iran “that is entirely unjustified and totally unacceptable and must not happen,” Raab said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who will turn 42 on Boxing Day, has been on temporary release from Tehran’s Evin prison and under house arrest since earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016 while visiting relatives with her young daughter.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the media organization’s philanthropic arm — denied charges of sedition but was convicted and jailed for five years.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spent more than four years in jail, or under house arrest, since being detained in the Iranian capital in April 2016. (AFP)

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said this week that the Foreign Office’s handling of the case “seems disastrous,” and that “the UK is dancing to Iran’s tune.”
Raab told the BBC: “We’ve made it very clear we want to try to put the relationship between the UK and Iran on a better footing.
“If Nazanin is returned to prison, that will of course put our discussions and the basis of those discussions in a totally different place. It is entirely unacceptable.”
Richard Ratcliffe linked the latest development to the postponement of a hearing that was due to take place on Tuesday in London to address Iran’s longstanding demand for the repayment by Britain of hundreds of millions from an old military equipment order.
“As Nazanin’s husband, I do think that if she’s not home for Christmas, there’s every chance this could run for years,” he said, accusing Iran of “hostage diplomacy.”