GAZA, June 6 (Xinhua) -- Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday condemned the United States for handing over a former Palestinian business professor in the U.S. to Israel after serving his sentence.
"The U.S. administration's decision to hand over the Palestinian professor, Abdel Halim al-Ashqar, is strongly condemned and it is a violation of international norms and laws," Haniyeh said in a press statement.
He added that he ordered the political relations department of Hamas to "make contacts with brotherly and friendly Arab and Islamic countries to work on hosting him instead of handing him over to the Israeli occupation."
Al-Ashqar, originally from the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, was a former associate professor of business at Howard University in Washington DC. He was also a former candidate who ran in the last Palestinian presidential elections held in 2005.
In November 2007, al-Ashqar was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury in a case that he was accused of taking part in Hamas, listed as a terror group by the U.S. His lawyers said the sentence was "unusually stiff" due to the complex political background.
The Palestinian media reported on Wednesday that Washington had handed over al-Ashqar to Israel for refusing to testify against some Palestinian Muslim activists, and for helping to finance Hamas.
"The U.S. step reflects the full bias of the Zionist occupation," said Haniyeh, noting that it was conducting dialogue with some States to receive al-Ashqar after he spent 11 years in U.S. jail and under home arrest for two years.
Haniyeh hailed al-Ashqar as "one of the most recognized national figures in terms of science, belonging to his homeland and his cause, and the Palestinian people are proud of him."
He also called on international institutions and human rights groups to intervene to release al-Ashqar and secure his life.
Israeli official sources did not make comment on the event.