A top critic of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas was sentenced in absentia Wednesday to three years in prison on corruption charges.
“The Anti-Corruption Crimes Court in Ramallah sentenced Muhammed Dahlan… to three years in prison after convicting him of embezzling $16 million,” Palestinian news agency Maan reported on Wednesday.
The court also fined Dahlan $16 million.
Sevag Torossian, one of Dahlan’s lawyers, told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the ruling “is a part of President Abbas’s ‘liquidation plan’ at the expense of his opponents.”
Salameh Halaseh, another one of Dahlan’s lawyers, told AFP that he and his colleagues learned about Wednesday’s hearing on Tuesday.
The ruling comes two days after Abbas lifted five Palestinian Authority parliamentarians’ immunity including Dahlan, a power that the PA Constitutional Court granted the 81-year-old PA leader in early November.
Abbas controversially formed the Constitutional Court in April, handpicking its nine members.
Torossian added that the Anti-Corruption Crimes Court threw out the corruption charges against Dahlan in 2015, citing his parliamentary immunity.
Dahlan rejected the court’s ruling in a statement to Amad, a PA news site, on Wednesday. “I call for the formation of a special national committee to study the lie of Mahmoud Abbas,” Dahlan said, adding that he pledges to commit to the committee’s findings.
Dahlan and Abbas have held a rivalry for many years, but in the past four years it has intensified, with both leaders accusing each other of corruption and failed leadership.