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Updated: April 7, 2010 16:46 IST

Palestinian President fires aide over sex scandal

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Mr. Rafiq Husseini. File photo: AP.
Mr. Rafiq Husseini. File photo: AP.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has fired his chief of staff over involvement in a videotaped sex scandal that has shaken the Palestinian leadership, a presidential aide said on Wednesday.

The firing is the latest chapter in a scandal that erupted in February when Israeli television broadcast a video showing the official, Rafiq Husseini, in bad light, part of an alleged scheme to extort sex in exchange for political favours.

The tape sent shockwaves through conservative Palestinian society and further eroded public confidence in Mr. Abbas and his aides, who are widely seen as aloof and out of touch with the public.

Mr. Abbas at first only suspended Mr. Husseini and appointed a committee to investigate the matter. His aide and a member of the committee, Rafiq Natche, said on Wednesday that Mr. Abbas took their advice and fired Mr. Husseini.

“The committee decided to end the work of Rafiq Husseini because he admitted before the committee that he was caught in a place where he shouldn’t have been,” Mr. Natche said. He added that Mr. Abbas “praised” Mr. Husseini and called him a victim of entrapment.

Mr. Husseini has said he was set up by the woman and a Palestinian intelligence officer who made the tape.

The officer, Fahmi Shabeneh, has said he was trying to prove corruption in the upper ranks of the government. Shabaneh, who was fired in 2008 for alleged involvement in shady land deals, has tried to reinvent himself as an anti-corruption crusader, though he has not provided proof to back up his claims against Mr. Husseini.

Mr. Husseini could not immediately be reached for comment.

To prevent similar scandals, Mr. Abbas has also prohibited Palestinian security from secretly videotaping people and violating their privacy, Mr. Natche said.

“The president issued a clear statement to the security apparatus that this shouldn’t happen under any circumstances,” Mr. Natche said.

The committee also recommended the Palestinian intelligence chief at the time, Tawfiq Tirawi, be banned from all government positions. Mr. Tirawi was removed from post following the scandal and now heads a Palestinian security academy but it remains unclear whether he’ll be able to keep that job.

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