WASHINGTON US officials have handed over a former Palestinian presidential candidate and university professor to Israel after keeping him 11 years in prison on charges of racketeering and collecting funds for the Hamas resistance movement.
The Council on International Relations Palestine, in a statement released on Thursday, denounced American authorities for extraditing Abdelhalim al-Ashqar to Israel, stressing that US officials bear full responsibility for the fate of Ashqar, who is now in the hands of the criminal Tel Aviv regime.
The Council noted that the move attests to the US administrations hostility towards the Palestinian nation and stability and peace in the Middle East region as well as its blatant bias in favor of the unjust Israeli regime and its ongoing crimes.
The statement further argued that American authorities had unfairly sentenced Ashqar to 11 years in prison after placing him under house arrest for nearly two years. He wore an ankle monitor on his right leg in his home in Alexandria, Virginia.
The Council called on the international community and human rights groups around the world to press for the release of Ashqar, stressing the need for the US administration to review its Middle East policies, which run contrary to its claim of being an honest broker in the so-called peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis.
Ashqar was a professor at Howard University, Washington, the United States. Between 1998 and 1999, he was detained for several months by American officials under allegations of fundraising for certain US-based Islamic organizations.
He was discharged from his teaching position at Washington University in August 2004. He was subsequently arrested, charged with racketeering and illegally collecting funds for Hamas, and put under house arrest.
Ashqar nominated himself as an independent presidential candidate in the January 9, 2005, Palestinian election. He was one of the 10 contenders seeking to succeed Yasser Arafat, who died on November 11, 2004 as head of the Palestinian Authority.
In November 2007, he was sentenced to 135 months in prison.
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