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Abbas to clamp down on 'privacy invasions'

April 4, 2010 9:40 A.M. (Updated: April 5, 2010 12:40 P.M.)
Ramallah – Ma'an – President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree on Sunday banning all violations of privacy and personal freedoms, following the results of a Palestinian Authority inquiry into corruption allegations against his former chief of staff.

"In light of the report handed over by the inquiry commission into the Rafiq Al-Husseini case, and reiterating previous instructions, the minister of interior must inform security services that any violator of the law of private freedoms will be called into account," the presidential decree read.

Legal experts interpret the decree as signaling the need for court approval before recording private acts, such as phone tapping and video surveillance.

The PA commission of inquiry completed its investigation into allegations against Al-Husseini on Monday, which was charged with investigating corruption and abuse of power, after he was shown on video allegedly soliciting sex in exchange for employment.

The commission's head, PLO Executive Committee member Salih Ra'fat, said the inquiry's results were handed over to Abbas on Saturday, when he met with members of the team. Abbas has vowed to implement the commission's recommendations, Ra'fat said.

Presidential aide Rafiq Natsha told Ma'an that the commission faced only one obstacle during its investigation of one of the suspects, as Israeli authorities prevented the the unnamed person's entry into the West Bank.

The former PA intelligence officer, Fahmi Shabana, who was charged with rooting out corruption within the PA and leaked the tape, said he released dozens of other document to the government for the investigation.

Shabana initially released the tape to Israel's Channel 10. At the time, he told reporters that the information had been presented to Abbas, but that he had chosen not to act.

The former officer threatened to release all of his documents to the public, but later reneged on the statement, saying he believed the PA was finally committed to taking on the various corruption cases.

Al-Husseini resigned in February after the videotape was again shown in Israeli TV.

The Al-Husseini inquiry's findings have yet to be made public.
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