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PLC lawmaker puts PA minister under fire for corruption charges

Feb. 27, 2016 5:10 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 27, 2016 5:10 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Political controversy erupted in the occupied Palestinian territory this week when Palestinian Authority security forces reportedly attempted to detain lawmaker Najat Abu Bakir for casting corruption charges against a Palestinian minister.

Abu Bakir, a Fatah-affiliated member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), began a sit-in inside the headquarters of the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah on Thursday after the Palestinian attorney general reportedly summoned her for interrogation.

Her summons came shortly after she issued a statement on Feb. 16 regarding “evidence” proving that a Palestinian minister had illegally utilized 800,000 shekels ($$205,331) for private use.

"I told the attorney general that his decision to question me was illegal because I am a lawmaker," Abu Bakir told Ma'an on Wednesday, adding that she requested to be summoned only via the PLC.

Palestinian Minister of Local Governance Hussein al-Aaraj, the official facing Abu Bakir’s allegations, denied charges of corruption.

The official -- reportedly close with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- said the money had been used for a public well-building project approved by the Palestinian Water Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip on Saturday organized a picket in solidarity with Abu Bakir.

Speaking at the rally, Hamas-affiliated deputy speaker of the PLC Ahmad Bahar accused Abbas of “slaughtering Palestinian laws” and allowing “executive power to dominate legislative power.”

Bahar said PA security services wanted to arrest Abu Bakir because she “practiced her nationalistic duties,” describing the decision to arrest her as a “crime.”

The political tit-for-tat comes as the PA has fallen under heavy scrutiny for its failure to meet the demands of a teacher strike, which Abu Bakir reportedly supported.
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