Second Palestinian land dealer found killed
May. 18, 1997
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) _ A Palestinian land dealer found slain after he allegedly sold land to Jews was buried secretively Sunday, while officials said a second Palestinian accused of the same thing has been killed.
The body of Harbi Abu-Sara, 48, a building contractor from the village of Ein-Yabrud, was found Saturday in Ramallah, the same Palestinian-controlled West Bank city where the first man's corpse turned up earlier this month.
Ramallah police chief Feras el-Amleh said Abu-Sara had been shot several times in the head with a pistol.
Eight months ago, the Palestinian Preventive Security Service arrested Abu-Sara on charges of having spied for Israel during the intefada _ the five-year Palestinian uprising _ and of mediating land sales to Israelis, a Security Service officer said.
He was held for two months, then released on the understanding that his activities were ``a thing of the past,'' said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Several Palestinians have died in custody of the Preventive Security Service. The officer, however, condemned Abu-Sara's killing and said the service was determined to find the perpetrators.
Police chief el-Amleh said it was not yet clear whether Abu-Sara, who was buried Sunday, was killed because of the alleged land deals with Israelis.
Meanwhile, Farid Bashiti, a 70-year-old from east Jerusalem who was found dead May 9, was buried discreetly Sunday, ending a nine-day ordeal that underscored strong emotions over land, the issue at the center of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinians see their hopes of establishing an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem dwindling as Jewish settlements expand _ sometimes on land sold by Arabs.
Bashiti, an Arab land dealer, was found dead in Ramallah, his skull crushed, hands tied behind his back and mouth sealed with plastic tape.
Bashiti was killed just days after Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Medein said Palestinians caught selling land to Jews would face the death penalty. Israeli authorities accuse Palestinian security forces of complicity in Bashiti's murder.
Ikrema Sabri, the chief Muslim cleric in Jerusalem, declared Bashiti an infidel for allegedly selling land to Jews and said he could not be buried in a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.
The family appeared to conduct a burial Sunday in Nabi Moussa, in the West Bank desert east of Jerusalem, announcing to police and reporters that the body had been interred there and shoveling sand atop what they said was the grave, marked by an unlettered stone.
But Asem Bashiti, the dead man's nephew, told The Associated Press later that his uncle actually had been buried Sunday in a secret spot.
``We deceived the press and the police and everybody,'' he said. ``We did this so that the grave would not be desecrated.''
Bashiti's son Mohammed insisted that his father had never sold land to Jews and blamed Sabri for destroying the family's honor.
``There are two killers _ the one who actually killed him and the one who killed the family,'' he said bitterly. ``He did not sell to Jews.''