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Israel arrests Palestinian cultural leaders, raids centres

Yabous Cultural Centre celebrates Arab heritage

By AFP - Jul 22,2020 - Last updated at Jul 22,2020

People walk past the Palestinian National Conservatory of Music that was raided today by Israeli forces and tax investigators, in East Jerusalem on Wednesday (AFP photo)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israeli forces arrested two prominent Palestinian cultural leaders on Wednesday at their home in East Jerusalem on a suspicion of "funding terrorism", their lawyer and police 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' 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 Israel has labelled as "terrorist".

Israeli forces 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 Odeh sent AFP documents given to his client by police ahead of their detention, which indicate they were "under suspicion of money laundering [and] funding terror".

The Yabous Cultural Centre in East Jerusalem was established in the mid 1990s with a mandate to celebrate 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.


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