Palestinian minister steps aside to fight charges

AP News
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Posted: Nov 29, 2011 12:13 PM
Palestinian minister steps aside to fight charges

The Palestinian economics minister on Tuesday said he was suspending himself from office in order to battle corruption charges.

Hassan Abu Libdeh, who holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University, is set to go on trial on Dec. 12, according to chief public prosecutor Ahmed Mughanni.

In a statement, Abu Libdeh professed his innocence and vowed to defend himself "before the judiciary against these false accusations."

Two senior government officials with access to court files said the case involves corruption, breach of trust, manipulation and fraud. They said the charges date back to when Abu Libdeh, who holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University in New York, headed the Palestinian Capital Market Authority in 2008. The authority oversees the local stock market.

The officials did not provide further details. They requested anonymity because they were not supposed to discuss the case.

Under Palestinian law, a government minister must remove himself from office while under indictment. If Abu Libdeh is cleared, he would be able to return to the post.