A Palestinian court on Sunday postponed its verdict in the trial of exiled Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, who is being tried in absentia on corruption charges, an AFP correspondent reported.
The ruling, which was to have been handed down at an anti-corruption court in the West Bank city of Ramallah, was postponed until the high court can rule on an earlier appeal regarding Dahlan's parliamentary immunity, which was revoked in 2011.
Dahlan's immunity was revoked by presidential decree shortly after his expulsion from the ruling Fatah party of president Mahmud Abbas.
But according to Salameh Halaseh, one of the lawyers working for Dahlan, such a step can only be taken after a vote in parliament, which has not convened since 2007 when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, triggering a major crisis with Fatah.
In May 2014, following another trial in absentia, Dahlan was sentenced to two years of prison on charges of defamation in a move which effectively bars him from ever running in general or presidential elections.
Following that trial, his legal team appealed the sentence by challenging the legality of the presidential decree which revoked his immunity. The high court's decision is due later this month.
"On March 18, the high court will rule on Dahlan's parliamentary immunity," Halaseh said, indicating that the corruption court would only give its ruling once that issue was decided.
"This is a new twist," said Sevag Torossian, who is also representing Dahlan and who has previously denounced the corruption trial as a "farce".
The trial of Dahlan, once a leading Fatah figure who headed Gaza's powerful security forces, began in December in connection with the alleged misuse of $17 million (15 million euros) in expenses.
Under Palestinian law, the fact that the trial is being held in absentia means his lawyers are denied access to the indictment itself or to any other court files pertaining to the trial.
The former security chief fell from grace in June 2007 after the humiliating rout of his forces by Hamas during days of fierce street battles in Gaza, which saw the Islamists expel Fatah from the territory.
He returned to the political stage in 2009, but two years later was expelled from Fatah over allegations of financial corruption and murder.