[JURIST] A Palestinian court on Wednesday announced that Mohammed Dahlan, leading rival of President Mahmoud Abbas [official website, in Arabic], has been sentenced in absentia to two years in prison, which is likely to hinder his ability to garner a leadership position in the future. Dahlan, a former Palestinian security chief, was convicted of defamation because of his allegations that Palestinian security forces were helping to protect Israeli settlers along the West Bank. Dahlan has stated that the ruling against him was politically motivated, and sought personally by Abbas as a political tactic meant to prevent him from competing in upcoming internal elections. Though he was convicted in March, the sentencing was only made public this week. Dahlan is currently based in the United Arab Emirates.
Dahlan and Abbas have been known to have a political rivalry that has increased in tension recently. Years ago, Dahlan was head of preventive security in the Gaza Strip, and later served as national security adviser to the Abbas administration [Al Monitor report]. He was seen as a potential contender to succeed Abbas. However, Dahlan was accused of the attempted corruption of Arafat on behalf of Israel, and in 2007 was chased out of Gaza by Hamas. He then fell under attack of Fatah leadership, who held him responsible for the Hamas takeover [AP report] in the Gaza Strip. He denied any wrongdoing, however, and was never formally charged. Dahlan was banished from Palestine [Al-Ahram report] in 2011 for suggesting that Abbas' two adult sons personally profited from the Palestinian public funds.