Democracy advocate from Palestine & adjunct senior fellow at the Bitcoin Policy Institute
Fadi Elsalameen, a prominent critic of corruption in the Palestinian Authority’s government led by Mahmoud Abbas), an adjunct senior fellow at the American Security Project and the Bitcoin Policy Institute in the US. In 2021, the Bank of Palestine disclosed Fadi Elsalameen’s financial records after Palestinian Authority fabricated a criminal case against him, accusing Mr. Elsalameen of money laundering, threatening national security in response to Mr. Elsalameen’s anti-corruption investigations, exposing him and people associated with Mr. Elsalameen to retaliation, including an assassination attempt.
Testimonial of Fadi Elsalameen:
To protect himself from total surveillance and harassment by corrupt Palestinian intelligence agencies, Mr. Elsalameen uses Bitcoin for his anti-corruption investigations.
Since 2009 I’ve been exposing human rights violations and corruption in Palestine, highlighting these issues in the US Congress and Senate, the US government and in social media. During my presentation I would like to bring your attention to 2 issues:
- How the Palestinian security services weaponised banking to harass all forms of dissent and eliminate anyone who exposes the abuse of humanitarian aid or financial assistance from the EU and the US.
- How Bitcoin has become a solution against abuses of corrupt regimes and connects communities in Israel and Palestine through Bitcoin transactions.
For the last 8 years the Palestinian Authority has obtained de facto complete control over the local banking system. As a result, the access to banking to journalists, critics and dissidents through the abuse of anti-money laundering regulations (AMLR) and anti-terrorism laws: this is just the tip of an iceberg made of physical violence, intimidation and even murder. I experienced it personally when in 2021 Bank of Palestine together with the Palestinian Intelligence Service froze my accounts and leaked my US and Israeli passport copies, home address, and detailed banking transactions to Al Akhbar newspaper, which is owned by the terrorist organisation Hezbollah.
The leak was intended to cast a shadow on me as a U.S. agent, thus deliberately sanctioning violent attacks against my life. , I would like to draw your attention to the video which shows how it works in practice. The video documents P.A. security forces shot at my house with live bullets in March 2021 when I was visiting my family. We collected 60 live bullets shot to our house. The PA never opened an investigation, and my sources inside Abbas office told me it was carried out by Majed Faraj men, the head of Palestinian Intelligence Service and with his orders.
State Department officials including deputy assistant secretary for Israeli-Palestinian affairs Hady Amr subsequently raised the threats with Palestinian officials and stressed that the U.S. was concerned by the situation. Even after the State Department registered a complaint, the Palestinian Authority refused to condemn the death threat or call it off.
In order to protect myself from this kind of attacks and in a safe way support other anti-corruption activists in Palestine I’m using Bitcoin.
The political killing of Nizar Banat, a well-known anti-corruption critic of the Palestinian Authority, is yet another example. Nizar Banat was a candidate in the parliamentary election of the Palestinian legislative council had experienced all possible forms of political persecution: smear campaigns, surveillance through banking and financial institutions, torture, fabricated accusations. Nizar Banat had already been arbitrarily arrested more than eight times for his critical comments on social media. After multiple attempts on his life, on the night of June 24th, 2021, Nizar Banat was politically killed by Palestinian Security Services.
It happened right after he called on the EU to freeze financial aid because of its misuse by the Abbas government and for its violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. I would like to show a video of how he was arbitrarily arrested and tortured to death in the detention facility by 14 agents.
The EU representative, Heads of Mission of Canada, Norway and Switzerland issued a statement in agreement with the heads of the EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah calling for an immediate investigation into the murder of Banat through an independent body and in a fully transparent manner and bringing those responsible for his death to justice. In August 2022 UN Committee against Torture called for justice and expressed regrets that the P.A. has so far failed to ensure accountability for Nizar Banat’s death. What did P.A.? In June 2022 president Abbas gave order to military court to release the 14 officers initially charged with Banat’s death under the pretext of ‘”the sanitary protection measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
As Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, independent media and Palestinian human rights activists have observed, none of those responsible for the political killing have been brought to justice. Instead – members of the Banat family, our lawyer and peaceful protesters are being prosecuted in fabricated criminal cases for calling on the EU, the US and the International Criminal Court to conduct an independent investigation and bring justice. P.A. are preventing the holding of a memorial ceremony for Nizar Banat in Hebron and preventing the family and friends from visiting his grave on 24 June 2022.
The European Parliament, in its latest resolution on Palestine in December 2022, called for transparent elections, an end to the repression of dissent, and accountability for human rights violations. Civil society in Palestine welcomes this resolution while paying a very high price for the corruption of the regime of Mahmoud Abbas.
As the largest donor to Palestine and an influential actor, the European Union and CoE have a role to play: in particular, it needs
(1) to exclude of the Palestinian Interior Ministry and security services from European Union financial assistance until effective steps are taken to stop torture, hold liable those responsible for them, including the culprits of the assassination of Nizar Banat and release political prisoners;
(2) to make sure that anti-money laundering and countering terrorism regulations (AML/CFT) are not abused by the Palestinian Authority to harass dissidents and crack down on civil society, demand from the Abbas government to release frozen assets of its critics;
(3) prevent the abuse of AML/CFT regulations through mutual legal assistance to silence opponents abroad.