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Israel expels Hamas MP jailed over Jerusalem status

Dec. 8, 2010 7:12 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 9, 2010 5:25 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- An Israeli court on Wednesday freed and expelled a Hamas MP jailed for entering Jerusalem despite the withdrawal of his residence permit, court sources said.

Israeli officials escorted elected official Mohammed Abu Teir to the Beituniya crossing point which connects the northern limits of occupied East Jerusalem with the occupied West Bank, where he was hugged by waiting supporters.

Following the verdict UN officials expressed concern, with a statement from Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said he was "worried" about the "potential precedent" that the trial set.

"This case and that of three other lawmakers currently facing court proceedings continue to raise serious human rights concerns regarding Palestinian residency rights in East Jerusalem," the statement said, adding that Serry would personally raise concern with the Israeli government.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said the move was a "clear violation of international conventions," and condemned the act.

He said it was the latest in Israeli attempts to push Palestinians from their lands and was a "confirmation taht the occupying forces are set on continuing their crimes against our people in the face of an absent international community and in the absence of international justice"

The Hamas official urged the Palestinian Authority to take a decisive stance on the issue and called on Arab countries to "do their duty towards protecting the residents of Jerusalem and representatives of the Palestinians."

Abu Tier was arrested on 30 June for entering mostly Arab East Jerusalem after the interior ministry stripped him of his residence permit for his activity in the Islamist movement Hamas which rules Gaza.

A high court appeal is pending against the ministry's order.

But the lower court said that it was placing Abu Teir under a four-month jail sentence, suspended for three years, which would be implemented if he again entered Israel or east Jerusalem.

"Today the magistrates' court decided to deport him and carry out the decision of the interior ministry," Abu Teir's lawyer Osama As-Saadi told AFP.

Abu Teir was elected to the Palestinian parliament from east Jerusalem in 2006 when Hamas won a landslide victory over the secular Fatah movement of Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Hamas condemned his expulsion as "arbitrary" and "racist," in a statement issued by its political leadership in Damascus.

"Hamas strongly condemns this arbitrary and racist decision to expel MP Mohammed Abu Teir with the aim of sidelining symbols of the Palestinian people who defend Jerusalem," it said.

Hamas said such measures "would only serve to reinforce the struggle."

Abu Teir is one of four senior Hamas officials whom Israel has been seeking to expel, sparking concern among Palestinians across east Jerusalem about their future residency status.

The others -- Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs, and MPs Ahmed Atun and Mohammed Totah -- are staging a sit-in at the east Jerusalem offices of the Red Cross.

Many Palestinians fear the expulsion of the four could set a precedent for the removal of more of the nearly 270,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967 and annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

Palestinians living in east Jerusalem need Israeli-issued residence permits which allow them to travel freely in Israel and the West Bank, collect government benefits and vote in Israeli local but not national elections.

Israel regards the whole of Jerusalem as its "eternal, indivisible" capital, while the Palestinians lay claim to its eastern sector as the capital of their promised state.

Ma'an staff writers contributed to this report
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