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Father detained for insulting Palestinian president, Canadian says

A Canadian businessman in the occupied West Bank says his ‘outspoken’ father was detained for critical remarks directed at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


A Canadian businessman in the West Bank said the Palestinian Authority wrongly detained his father for nine hours because he had criticized Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Khaled Al Sabawi, founder of the Ramallah-based MENA Geothermal, said his 68-year-old father, Mohamed Al Sabawi, was released without charge Monday after being presented with a complaint from one of Mr. Abbas's guards. The complaint apparently accused the elder Mr. Al Sabawi, president of an insurance company, of insulting the president two weeks ago.

"My dad is very outspoken about the Palestinian Authority," the son said. "My father believes the Authority has become a sub-contractor for the Israeli occupation. … He has called on Mahmoud Abbas to resign."

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The circumstances of the detention were murky. According to sources in Mr. Abbas's guard service who spoke on condition on anonymity, the elder Mr. Al Sabawi had refused to let the security forces use his roof during a visit to Ramallah by French President François Hollande. He also said then that Mr. Abbas should resign.

Major-General Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, said the father was not detained for his political views. But, he added, it is illegal under Palestinian law to curse the Palestinian president.

The younger Mr. Al Sabawi, a graduate of the University of Waterloo, has frequently criticized both Israelis and Palestinians, saying they make it difficult for entrepreneurs to operate and provide jobs in the West Bank. He took to Twitter and Facebook to announce that his father was detained.

Criticizing the Palestinian leadership has occasionally proved dangerous. Three local journalists have been arrested by Palestinian police in the past month. Human Rights Watch has said Palestinian leaders have "restricted the ability of Palestinians to debate crucial public issues despite their repeated claims that they respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

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