The Palestinian man accused of selling a house near Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs to a Jewish family has reportedly been sentenced to death by the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon reported that Mohammed Abu Shahala acted as an agent for the original Palestinian owner of what has come to be known as "Machpela House."
After the story went public, sources in Hebron told the newspaper that Shahala was arrested and tortured by Palestinian security. During his second "interrogation" session, Shahala confessed not only to acting as an agent for local Palestinians willing to sell their houses to Jews, but also to cooperating with Israel's Mossad spy agency.
Shahala reportedly received an expedited trial, and his death sentence is now awaiting the signature of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Several Jewish settler leaders are trying to save his life.
In an open letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and the heads of the European Union and International Red Cross, Hebron Jewish community leaders David Wilder and Noam Arnon pleaded for international intervention on behalf of Shahala.
"It is appalling to think that property sales should be defined as a ‘capital crime’ punishable by death," they wrote. "What would be the reaction to a law in the United States, England, France, or Switzerland, forbidding property sales to Jews? Actually, less than one hundred years ago, such acts were legislated and practiced, known as the infamous ‘Nuremberg laws.'"
Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha Council of Jewish communities, stated, "Abu Shahala will be executed in Ramallah, barely 15 minutes drive from the government's headquarters in Jerusalem. He is being executed for the 'crime' of helping Jews buy a home in Hebron. Israel cannot allow this travesty to take place."
Since its inception in 1993 and its coming to power in 1995, the Palestinian Authority has maintained old Jordanian laws that made it a capital offense to sell property to Jews. More often than not, Israel sides with the Palestinian Authority on these issues for fear of provoking a violent Muslim outburst. That is what happened with the Machpela House, where earlier this month the new Jewish owners were forcibly evicted by the Israeli army.