Occupied Jerusalem: Exiled former Palestinian security chief Mohammad Dahlan says his conviction for defamation by a West Bank court is aimed at keeping him from running in promised presidential and parliamentary elections.

Dahlan, who lives in exile in the UAE, was convicted in absentia by a Ramallah court in March and sentenced to two years in prison, but the ruling was only made public this week.

Writing in Arabic on his Facebook page late on Wednesday, Dahlan said the timing “obviously aims to disrupt...my resolved participation in the next presidential and parliamentary elections.”

The revelation comes as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Islamist Hamas, who recently inked a unity deal, were poised to unveil a new government of technocrats, which will pave the way for long-delayed elections.

Dahlan, a bitter rival of Abbas, accused the president of using the court “as a tool to serve his personal grudges and purposes against me.”

If the sentence is upheld on appeal, it would bar Dahlan from standing as a candidate.

Once a leading light in Fatah, which dominates the PLO and controls the Palestinian Authority, Dahlan once held the internal security portfolio and was head of the powerful security forces in the Gaza Strip.

He 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 Islamist group eject Fatah from the territory.

In 2011, his immunity as a member of the Palestinian parliament was lifted and he was expelled from Fatah over allegations of financial corruption and murder.

Abbas and Dahlan have both accused each other of complicity in the mysterious death of president Yasser Arafat in November 2004.