Israel arrests Palestinian cultural leaders, raids centres

Israel arrests Palestinian cultural leaders, raids centres
The heads of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and the Yabous Cultural Center were arrested at their shared home in Jerusalem.
2 min read
Both centres were raided by police and tax inspectors [Getty]

Israeli police arrested two prominent Palestinian cultural leaders on Wednesday at their home in east Jerusalem on a suspicion of "funding terrorism", police and a defence lawyer said.

Rania Elias, who heads the Yabous Cultural Centre and her husband Suhail Khoury, Director General of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, were detained at their home in Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighbourhood. 

The Yabous centre and the conservatory were also raided by police and Israeli tax investigators, with documents confiscated.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation condemned the arrests and raids as part of "Israel's violent and systematic campaign against Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem".

According to Elias's lawyer Nasir Odeh, the couple was "detained on charges of financing terrorist organisations".

But he stressed that Israel's broad anti-terrorism laws include a wide range of offences, including accepting money from organisations that the Jewish state has labelled as "terrorist".

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement that police, with tax authorities, detained "three suspects... in connection with tax evasion and fraud", without mentioning the individuals by name.  

It confirmed the searches "at two organisations that were run in east Jerusalem claiming that they were involved in Palestinian culture". 

Rosenfeld said the individuals were being questioned and the investigation was ongoing. 

His statement makes no mention of terror-related offences.

But documents sent to AFP by a conservatory official, presented by police at the time of the search, reference "suspicion of money laundering (and) funding terror".

The Yabous Cultural Center in east Jerusalem was established in the mid 1990s with a mandate to celerate Palestinian culture and Arab heritage in the city. 

The conservatory, named after the late Palestinian intellectual Said, has branches in Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank. 

Its mandate is to promote music and music education among Palestinian communities. 

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

It considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

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