The Trump administration has effected the release of Issam Akel, an American citizen and Palestinian who was sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labor for selling his property to Jews.
Akel, a resident of east Yerushalayim who holds a blue Israeli identification card and U.S. citizenship, had been held by the Palestinian Authority for several months. In recent days a secret deal was signed between the PA and U.S. authorities, according to the Kan broadcaster, and Akel was freed on Tuesday.
Under Palestinian law, attempting to sell or selling land to Israeli Jews is a crime, punishable by hard labor, imprisonment and/or execution.
Former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind met with Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Akel’s family in Yerushalayim last November to raise concern for Issam’s life and well-being. A couple of weeks later, Hikind handed a letter written by Akel’s wife directly to President Trump at the White House. The president immediately mobilized the full force of his administration to pressure the Palestinian Authority to free him.
“There’s no doubt this could not have been accomplished without direct intervention from the White House, and for that I’m thankful, because an innocent man was saved from a brutal regime which penalizes positive interactions between Palestinians and Jews,” said Hikind.
A White House spokesperson was not available to comment on the matter due to the partial government shutdown.