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Saturday Feb. 13, 2010 11:55 AM (EST+7)
Source: Abbas asks for top aide's resignation

Read more: Fahmi Shabaneh, Rafiq Husseini, Mahmoud Abbas, corruption

RAMALLAH Feb. 13 (JMCC) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked his top aide to submit his resignation after he became embroiled in a corruption scandal, a source told JMCC Friday.

Abbas' chief of staff, Rafiq Husseini, has been at the center of Israeli media reports that he was using his position to solicit sexual favors.

The reports originated with a former security official, Fahmi Shabaneh, who is alleging fiscal corruption in the ranks of the president's office. Shebaneh screened a videotape purportedly of Husseini in a compromising position with a female colleague for Israel's Channel 10 and Yedioth Ahranot, along with papers showing the embezzlement of public funds by top officials.

Maan news editor Nasser Lahham said in a Friday editorial that Shabaneh should be prosecuted for turning internal documents over to Israeli contacts.

How did we allow an officer to walk out of the West Bank carrying 400 pages of classified documents? asked Lahham. Why do these documents contain not only evidence of corruption, but, according to reports, also the [Palestinian Authority's] conclusions on exactly how Hamas took over Gaza?

Lahham also called for Husseini to step down, at least while an investigation is carried out.

Palestinian officials have said that the scandal is being used by Israel as a means of discrediting Abbas, who has refused to restart bilateral negotiations until Israel institutes a complete settlement freeze.

Al-Quds al-Arabi reported Thursday that Abbas sent a strongly-worded letter to the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanding that the television report be blocked. Abbas said in the letter that he cannot continue to govern if he is periodically the target of fabricated Israeli scandals.


Husseini has denied that he is being asked to step down but sources say public opinion is against allowing him to stay on.

A man in  his position should be more responsible than this and have ethics, said 19-year-old Muhammed Ahmed, who called for Husseini's execution. This is the old way of getting adherence to the law.

Other Palestinians are critical of Shabaneh's decision to air Palestinian dirty laundry using Israeli media.

It is never acceptable to give information to the enemy, said 27-year-old Majdi Rafiq. He also called for Husseini's retirement from public office.


The corruption scandal dates at least to mid-2008 and - according to some reports - as much as five years ago when the Palestinian Authority was investigating several Palestinian land deals.

Former Palestinian intelligence chief Tawfiq Tirawi was Shabaneh's superior at the time of the land deals. He spoke out on BBC Arabic last week, saying that arrests were never made in the case because the Palestinian Authority is unable to detain those carrying Jerusalem identity cards.

According to al-Quds al-Arabi, Tirawi was removed from his position by the president two years ago when it was discovered that his organization was collecting video intelligence on top Palestinian officials in the Husseini case.

While the Palestinian attorney general has said that Shabaneh was fired and is wanted by the Palestinian Authority for selling land to Israelis, Shabaneh claims that he remains on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority.

Shabaneh is threatening to hold an additional press conference on February 28 if none of those who he charges with crimes are brought to justice.






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