Palestinian President sacks close aide over sex scandal

Abbas' decision to sack his close aide was taken in accordance with the findings of a special commission of inquiry that was established to look into the scandal, popularly known as 'Fatahgate', reflecting the internal squabbles in the Palestinian President's Fatah party.

The scandal rocked the conservative Palestinian society after a former intelligence official, Fahmi Shabaneh, revealed two months ago a videotape showing Husseini naked in the bedroom of a Palestinian woman apparently seeking "sexual favours for career benefits".

The Chief of Staff was also heard in the videotape shown on Israel's Channel 10 bad-mouthing Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. In one clip, he is seen sitting in the woman's living room and saying that Abbas lacks charisma. He is also heard calling one of Abbas' wealthy sons, Yasser, a "crook."

In another clip, Husseini denounces Arafat as "one of the biggest swindlers."
Shabaneh, who was in charge of the anti-corruption unit in the PA's General Intelligence Service, said the woman had complained to him that Husseini was trying to exploit her sexually.

Based on the recommendations of the commission of inquiry, Abbas instructed the PA security services to destroy all material implicating Palestinians in sexual and moral offences, including videotapes and audio recordings.The PA President also instructed his security forces to refrain from "violating or intruding into the privacy" of Palestinians.

Husseini and senior Abbas aides initially claimed the videotape had been "fabricated" and that Shabaneh was a "collaborator" with Israel.However, the commission of inquiry, which Abbas established after the sex tape was broadcast on Channel 10, did not find any evidence of Israeli involvement in the scandal.

The three-man commission held Shabaneh's former boss, Tawfik Tirawi, responsible for the embarrassing incident, recommending that he be kept out of any official position in the Palestinian Authority.The inquiry report said that Tirawi, then commander of the General Intelligence Service, had authorised the secret filming of Husseini.

Tirawi, who today is head of the Palestinian 'Military Academy,' claimed in recent weeks that he knew nothing about the sex scandal, accusing Shabaneh of "collaboration" with Israel.

The commission's findings are seen as a victory for Shabaneh, who has insisted all along that the videotape was authentic and that he had acted on instructions from Tirawi.

The commission heard testimonies from scores of Palestinians who were involved, directly and indirectly, in the scandal.Well-placed Palestinian sources said the Palestinian leadership was aware of the existence of the video tape and was trying to work out an honourable exit for Husseini as an envoy to a prominent European capital, but he refused

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