PA police officers
PA police officers Najeh Hashlamoun/Flash 90

Hassan Kharisha, a member of the Palestinian parliament, on Saturday condemned the Palestinian Authority's (PA) decision to release an American citizen suspected of helping to sell land to Israeli officials.

Issam Akel, a 53-year-old Arab-American who also holds an Israeli identification card, was abducted by PA forces in October, after he is said to have facilitated the sale of Arab-owned property in the Old City of Jerusalem to Jewish buyers.

In December, a PA court in Ramallah sentenced Akel to life imprisonment with hard labor for the crime of selling land to a foreign country – Israel. Despite the sentence, however, Akel was handed over to the United States last week, after the US and PA signed a secret agreement.

Kharisha said on Saturday that the sale of Palestinian land to Israelis was "a national, legal, moral and religious crime" and that it required punishment.

Anyone who lightens the sentence of those who helped to transfer land to Israelis is a partner in the sale of Palestine and Jerusalem, he added.

Under PA law, selling of land to Jews is illegal and punishable by death. However, such sentences must be approved by the PA chairman, and current chairman Mahmoud Abbas has preferred to authorize life sentences for such offenses, possibly due to fear of an international backlash.

In 2014, Abbas toughened the PA law against selling property to Israeli Jews, so that any Palestinian Arabs involved in renting, selling or facilitating real estate transactions with citizens of "hostile countries" in any way would receive life imprisonment and hard-labor.

In October, the “National Popular Council of Al-Quds” described the sale of real estate to Jews as "a despicable crime against Al-Quds, Palestine and the homeland."