Rania Elias of Yabous Cultural Centre and her husband Suhail Khoury, Director General of Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, arrested at home in Beit Hanina neighbourhood, police and a defence lawyer say.

People walk past the Palestinian National Conservatory of Music, which was raided today by Israeli police and tax investigators, in East Jerusalem on July 22, 2020.
People walk past the Palestinian National Conservatory of Music, which was raided today by Israeli police and tax investigators, in East Jerusalem on July 22, 2020. (AFP)

Israeli police have arrested two prominent Palestinian cultural leaders at their home in occupied East Jerusalem on suspicion of "funding terrorism."

Rania Elias, who heads the Yabous Cultural Centre and her husband Suhail Khoury, director general of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, were detained at their home in Jerusalem's Beit Hanina neighbourhood, police and a defence lawyer said.

The Yabous centre and the conservatory were also raided by police and Israeli tax investigators, with documents confiscated.

Israel's systematic purge 

The Palestine Liberation Organization condemned the arrests and raids as part of "Israel's violent and systematic campaign against Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem."

According to Elias's lawyer Nasir Odeh, the couple was "detained on charges of financing terrorist organisations."

But he stressed that Israel's broad anti-terrorism laws include a wide range of offences, including accepting money from organisations that the Jewish state has labelled as "terrorist."

READ MORE: Israel blocks Palestinian exports in rising trade crisis

Israel confirms detentions

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement that police, with tax authorities, detained "three suspects ... in connection with tax evasion and fraud," without mentioning the individuals by name.  

It confirmed the searches "at two organisations that were run in east Jerusalem claiming that they were involved in Palestinian culture."

Rosenfeld said the individuals were being questioned and the investigation was ongoing.

His statement makes no mention of terror-related offences.

But documents sent to AFP news agency by a conservatory official, presented by police at the time of the search, reference "suspicion of money laundering (and) funding terror."

Threat to Palestinian culture

The Yabous Cultural Center in occupied East Jerusalem was established in the mid-1990s with a mandate to celebrate Palestinian culture and Arab heritage in the city.

The conservatory, named after the late Palestinian intellectual Said, has branches in Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank.

Its mandate is to promote music and music education among Palestinian communities.

According to Palestinian figures, Israel closed more than 32 cultural and society institutions in occupied Jerusalem since 2001.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

It considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Read more: A brief history of the Israeli occupation of Palestine

Source: TRTWorld and agencies