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Anti-corruption court sentences Abbas rival Muhammad Dahlan to 3 years in prison

Dec. 14, 2016 11:40 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 15, 2016 12:44 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Ramallah Anti-Corruption Crimes Court sentenced Muhammad Dahlan, a dismissed member of the Fatah movement living in exile in the United Arab Emirates and longtime rival of Palestinian  President Mahmoud Abbas, to three years in prison on Wednesday after convicting him of embezzling $16 million.

The court also fined Dahlan with $16 million as payment for allegedly embezzling the money, and said it would consider Dahlan as a fugitive.

Dahlan was formerly a leading Fatah figure known for his fierce opposition to the Hamas movement. He led a merciless crackdown on the group in the 1990s, rounding up thousands of Islamists who refused to recognize the legitimacy of the newly-created Palestinian Authority (PA).

But he fell from grace in June 2007 after the humiliating rout of his forces by Hamas fighters during days of fierce street battles in Gaza, when Hamas expelled Fatah forces from the territory.

Two years later, he returned to the political stage when he was elected to the Fatah central committee in August 2009.

But in December 2010, he was suspended from the committee which said it had set up a commission of inquiry to examine his finances and claims he tried to set up a personal militia.

Dahlan was also accused by Fatah leaders in 2011 of poisoning the late Yasser Arafat, but PA sources had told Ma'an at the time that the West Bank government had come under international and regional pressure not to pursue Dahlan.

In 2015, Dahlan made headlines once again when he called for integrating all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, into the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

International media has also reported plans by several Middle Eastern countries to buttress Dahlan as the next Palestinian president to replace his rival Abbas. However, Dahlan has said in the past that he was not planning on becoming president.

Meanwhile, critics have accused Abbas of refusing to relinquish his seat as president despite popular support for him to step down.

In an interview with Ma’an in October, Dahlan accused Fatah of being too focused on internal party conflicts, at the expense of national issues.

Dahlan also called to stop security coordination with Israel, and said he considers the Oslo Accords to be invalid.

Amid growing dissent within Fatah, the PA has come under fire for cracking down on Palestinians for criticizing the government, notably removing two Fatah officials over participation in a meeting attended by hundreds of local Fatah leaders, and arresting one of them after he spoke out regarding his dismissal.

Dahlan aslo said that the failures of PA leadership, in addition to repressive Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, could have dire consequences.

"If this situation continues, we will either yield to the occupation's conditions and rules -- which is impossible at the popular level -- or have a popular uprising, which will be very dangerous," he said, adding that the status quo could no longer be sustained.
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