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PLC: Abbas' removal of parliamentary immunity of members 'illegal' and 'unconstitutional'

Dec. 21, 2016 6:10 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 24, 2016 5:07 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- For the first time since 2007, Palestinian lawmakers affiliated with the Fatah movement participated in a meeting at the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, and declared a recent decision by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to strip certain officials of their parliamentary immunity illegal and unconstitutional.

According to lawmakers present at the meeting, five Fatah-affiliated lawmakers attended the meeting dedicated to a discussion on a recent decision made by Abbas to remove parliamentary immunity for a number of lawmakers.

A Fatah-affiliated lawmaker from the occupied West Bank also participated in the meeting by phone.

Last week, Abbas revoked parliamentary immunity for five parliamentarians: Shami al-Shami, Najat Abu Bakr, Nasser Juma, Jamal Tirawi, and Abbas’ longtime rival Muhammed Dahlan, who was also sentenced in absentia to three years in prison after convicting him of allegedly embezzling $16 million.

Abbas’ move was quickly condemned as a political maneuver to maintain the leader’s control over the PA government and squelch his political rivals amid mounting unpopularity for Abbas’ more than a decade-long domination over Palestinian politics.

The PLC’s legal committee decided that Abbas’ decision to revoke parliamentary immunity for certain members was “legally and constitutionally illegitimate,” noting that the PLC itself was the only entity that had the right to remove parliamentary immunity for its members.

The committee’s rapporteur, Muhammad Faraj al-Ghoul added in a statement that after the discussions, the PLC agreed that Abbas’ decision was “legally valueless,” and added that violating the immunity of PLC members could be a “punishable crime.”

Al-Ghoul urged all Palestinian factions to denounce Abbas' decision to remove immunity of lawmakers, and highlighted that the PA would be responsible for consequences of such decisions.

The non-affiliated second deputy speaker of the PLC, Hasan Khreisha confirmed in a phone call from the West Bank during the session that the decision was “illegal.”

Meanwhile, Fatah-affiliated lawmaker from Gaza, Ashraf Jumaa reiterated the condemnation voiced by other members and expressed his support for the legal committee’s report.

Fatah has witnessed growing internal dissent, with the party discharging a number of officials from their functions in past months or otherwise preventing them from attending the party’s recent conference.

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