Israel, Palestinian Authority, partners in silencing critics

8 Sep

Issa Amro taken from PA courtroom yesterday. His detention was extended. He remains on hunger strike, refusing food, water & medicine

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, 7 September 2017

The Palestinian Authority has extended the detention of Issa Amro, a prominent activist against Israeli colonization in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

Amro was arrested Monday by the PA’s Preventive Security force, after he criticized its earlier arrest of Ayman al-Qawasmi, the director of Hebron’s Minbar al-Hurriya radio station.

Amro will be held for at least another four days.

On Wednesday, nine members of the US Congress wrote to Abbas urging Amro’s release.

Amro is reportedly being held under the draconian Electronic Crimes law decreed by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in July.

He remains on a total hunger strike, refusing food, water and medicine, according to Youth Against Settlements, the group he leads.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday joined other groups that have sharply condemned Amro’s arrest, which is part of a much wider crackdown on free speech and journalists by Abbas’ authority.

Amro is already facing trial in an Israeli military tribunal on trumped-up charges designed to repress his activism against settlements.

In June, 32 US lawmakers signed a letter expressing support for Amro in the face of Israel’s baseless charges.

Radio station closed by Israel

Meanwhile, the PA released al-Qawasmi on Wednesday. On 31 August, days before his arrest by Palestinian forces, the Minbar al-Hurriya radio station he runs was violently raided by Israeli occupation forces.

Israel ordered the station closed for six months, accusing it of “incitement.”

Al-Qawasmi’s arrest reportedly came after he criticized PA leaders for failing to protect Palestinians from such Israeli attacks.

Israeli forces close down Minbar al-Hurriya radio station in Hebron [Photo: Screen grab from Al-Huriya website]

Israel frequently claims that Palestinian media that report on the occupation are guilty of “incitement” as a pretext for shutting them down.

But Minbar al-Hurriya denies it has broadcast any material that could have provoked violence or what Israel calls terrorism.

Following the detentions of al-Qawasmi and Amro, MADA, a Palestinian group that documents violations against journalists said it condemns the PA’s “arrest of journalists and activists for expressing their opinions and demands an end to this policy.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists urged Israel to “allow the al-Hurriya media network and its affiliates to resume work without fear of harassment,” and had also called on the PA to release al-Qawasmi.

“It seems the only thing Israel and the Palestinian Authority have in common right now is their desire to silence their critics in the media,” the watchdog’s Middle East program head Sherif Mansour said.

[See earlier reports on posted on 1 September and 5 September 2017. Ed]

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