Palestinian Group Says It Killed 'Corrupt' PA TV Head

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - There is growing fear in the Palestinian self-rule areas that the mob-style murder of the head of Palestinian Authority television could be a sign the PA is losing control.

Wednesday's murder of Hisham Mikki, which followed the weekend executions of two alleged collaborators before a cheering crowd and the gunning down of two Palestinians suspected of the same "crime" earlier this week, is a sign that the Palestinian population is taking the law into its own hands, said Bassam Eid, Director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.

A Palestinian group claimed responsibility Thursday for gunning down 54-year-old Mikki, the head of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, accusing him of widespread corruption and sexual misconduct.

Earlier, the PA had accused Israel and its "collaborators" of killing Mikki, a close associate of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat.

"It's a terrible situation for the Palestinians," Eid said, adding that it is going to get worse.

After the murder, Palestinian officials were afraid and had taken more precautions to protect themselves, Eid said. However, he believed that the slaying was not intended as a message for Arafat himself, but for the "corrupt people" surrounding him.

In any case, it will be up to Arafat to calm the situation now, but it will not "change the minds of the PA on corruption," he said.

A group calling itself the Brigade of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs said it had killed the television chief for practicing "illegal sex, stealing money and corruption."

The group, which previously claimed responsibility for attacks on Israelis, is believed loosely connected with Arafat's Fatah faction. However, it was not clear if the gunmen had acted on their own or with Fatah approval.

"The failure [of Arafat] ... to punish corrupt people has forced us to carry out the assassination of Hisham Mikki," the group said in a leaflet distributed to news agencies.

Unofficial charges of corruption at the highest ranks have been leveled against PA officials. The average Palestinian has watched as many officials have amassed wealth during the seven years of peace talks, while the average Palestinian is worse off financially.

Mikki was often seen together with the PA leader, but there were also rumors that he had embezzled millions of dollars.

Arafat's lifestyle is seen to be modest, but he has refused to take any action against those from his inner circle, who live more extravagantly and who are accused of corruption.

The PA heeded cries for vengeance over the weekend when it put to death two young men accused of collaborating with Israel, whose information allegedly led to the killing of several prominent Palestinian militants.

Pressed by the European Union to commute the death sentences of other offenders, Justice Minister Freih Abu Medein issued a call for a general amnesty for alleged collaborators to turn themselves in. But the amnesty offer angered many Palestinians.

What the events of the last week have done is encourage the people to take revenge, Eid said. "It's a big scandal today for the people themselves and for the PA." It indicates that everything is "completely out of order" in the PA.

With international pressure on the PA not to carry out executions and pressure from within to deal with corruption, the PA "is not in a good position. It's between an international hammer and internal anvil."