Gaza - Ma’an - A family apartment was seized and handed over to de facto government police after its owner temporarily moved out of the home to take care of her sick father-in law.
A’lyia Aweida said she returned to the apartment on 3 April to collect some belongings, only to find a de facto government police officer, who she identified only by his initials, RAH, and his wife living in her home.
“What right and by what religion does he feel permission to take over my home and my belongings?” Aweida asked, “How can he himself accept to live in a home where the things are not his? How does he sleep on a bed he knows was taken by force?”
The first hint of the problem, Aweida said reflecting on the matter, came months before, when a de facto government ministry of the interior official asked her to provide papers showing that her family in fact owned the home.
It was the end of January, and Aweida had already moved in with her father at the time, who was released from the Intensive Care unit at Gaza City’s Ash-Shifa Hospital where he was being treated for late-stage cancer.
“His condition forces him to remain in bed,” she explained, noting her family had moved in to her father’s home in order to stay together and help care for him.
So, the apartment in the upscale neighborhood of Ar-Rimal, in the Golden Beach Tower of the Sheikh Ijlin block was left locked, with Aweida and her husband periodically checking in or gathering necessary belongings for themselves or their children.
It was a Ministry of the Interior official, who Aweida identified by his initials, AA. “He asked for papers proving we owned the home, and said he believed that the apartment was in fact owned by the Palestinian Authority,” she said.
She said she showed him the deeds, that the apartment was owned by her husband Sa’eed Aweida. “We showed them all of the papers that prove that the apartment is privately owned by the Aweida family and that is it not owned by the Palestinian Authority.” Appealing to the government
Aweida went to the de facto government’s Ministry of the Interior to speak with under secretary of the ministry Kamel Madi. “We did not find him in, and instead met with a man who said he was the head of Madi’s office. He told us the apartment was seized on account of an embezzlement charge against Said Aweida, and that the decision was taken by the undersecretary of the ministry,” she said.
When the family requested a copy of the decision to confiscate the department, they were told to return the following week. There was no document ready when they returned, and after several inquiries, found that there “was no such decision concerning our issue,” Aweida explained.
The family started an appeal process, during which they met General Comptroller of the ministry of the interior Hasan As-Seifi.
The official was shocked when he heard the story, telling the Aweida family that, “no one is allowed - whoever he is - to lay a hand on the rights of the people and their possessions , it’s a moral and religious commitment.”
Speaking with Ma’an, As-Seifi said he has started a file to follow up on the case of the Aweida family, calling the details “totally prohibited” under both the law and Islam.
He said he believed the Aweida’s home was taken under what the de facto government called an Absentee Property Law. Even under this regulation, As-Seifi said, “No police man is permitted to take over the home, it must be returned to its owners under law.”
A cousin of the family, Nathem Aweida, was asked to act as their lawyer around the complaint, and said he found no documents that proved there was a court ruling on absentee property laws pertaining to the home. He concluded that the seizure was illegal and said he had already filed a suit.
The case of Said Aweida vs the Ministry of the Interior, under secretary of the ministry Kamel Madi and de facto police officer RAH, case no. 331/2010, has already been postponed to 5 September 2010, Nathem said, noting the postponement was an ill omen for the hearing.
In September, the defendants will submit their statements to the court, and the Aweida family will then have another chance to submit further documentation and arguments against the seizure of the home. Part of tax-law enforcement?
On Tuesday, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said in a statement that homes were being confiscated if residents were in arrears over taxes not submitted to the de facto government.
The government responded to some of the accusations, saying the accusations were meant to destabilize the Gaza Strip, but did not mention the home seizures.