Israeli court freezes Arafat property in east Jerusalem

Jerusalem: An Israeli court has seized a Jerusalem property partly owned by late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, holding it as collateral against a civil suit for damages against the Palestinian Authority.

A copy of the ruling by the Jerusalem district court made available to AFP on Wednesday named “the estate of the late Yasser Arafat” as respondent.

“A temporary lien is granted on property owned by the respondent,” said Tuesday’s judgement.

It said any future request to lift the order would be given a fresh court hearing and that the Arafat estate had 30 days to appeal.

Israeli NGO Shurat Hadin requested the lien so the Arafat asset in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem could serve as collateral for a pending civil claim for damages against the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Arafat estate, by eight families of victims of Palestinian attacks.

“This move is one step closer towards justice for the victims and their families,” Shurat Hadin head Nitsana Darshan Leitner said in a statement.

She said that the lien was necessary because if the suit succeeds, collection of damages was likely to be difficult.

“We will not allow a situation in which the Arafat estate can own land in the heart of Jerusalem while avoiding paying damages to his victims,” she said.

“Yasser Arafat was the grandfather of modern terrorism, responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.”

Arafat, who led both the PA and the PLO, died aged 75 in a French hospital on November 11, 2004, with Palestinians accusing Israel of having poisoned him.

The Israeli government firmly denies the allegation.

His body was exhumed in 2012 for tests but a subsequent French investigation found no proof of poisoning.

Swiss experts, however, said they found high levels of radioactive polonium on his personal effects.

Arafat’s nephew, Nasser al-Qudwa, said on Wednesday that the Jerusalem court ruling was “unacceptable.”

The property in question covers about 2,700 square metres (29,000 square feet) on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem’s walled Old City and its Al-Aqsa mosque complex.

Qudwa told a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that Arafat and his brothers owned only a small part of the property placed under lien.

He said the ruling was the work of “raiders and thieves”.