Issa Amro, persecuted by Israel, is arrested by PA

Issa Amro protesting Israeli settlements, with children in Hebron. (Youth Against Settlements)

A prominent Palestinian human rights defender who is already facing a military trial by Israel is being detained by the Palestinian Authority after criticizing the arrest of a journalist.

Issa Amro has declared a total hunger strike until he is released.

On Sunday, Amro made two posts on Facebook condemning the detention by the PA’s Preventive Security force of Ayman al-Qawasmi, the director of the Minbar al-Hurriya radio station in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.

Just days ago, the radio station was raided and ordered closed by Israeli occupation forces.

According to Farid al-Atrash, a lawyer with the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, Preventive Security went to Amro’s home in Hebron on Sunday to summon him. Amro turned himself in on Monday.

“All my writings on social media are part of the freedom of opinion and expression stipulated by the Palestinian Basic Law and are protected by all international laws and conventions,” Amro said in a statement released Tuesday that he wrote prior to turning himself in.

“My arrest will not affect my defense of human rights and the rights of journalists to exercise their work freely and without pressure from the government.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, al-Atrash told The Electronic Intifada, Amro was still in PA detention and had not appeared before a judge. It is unclear when he may be released.

Al-Atrash described Amro’s detention as a clear case of violation of free speech.

Amnesty International called Amro’s detention “a shameless attack on freedom of expression.”

Amro, founder of the group Youth Against Settlements, is already facing trial in Israel’s military court on trumped-up charges aimed at suppressing his activism against Israel’s violent colonization of his home city.

Amnesty has called the Israeli charges baseless, and in June, 32 members of the US Congress signed a letter supporting him.

Israel’s military tribunals are kangaroo courts with a nearly 100 percent conviction rate for Palestinians.

Caught in a vise

Now Amro is caught in a vise between Israeli occupation forces and the Palestinian Authority. But he is not alone.

Amro’s arrest by the PA “is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s Middle East director, said.

In recent months, the PA, led by Mahmoud Abbas, has intensified its crackdown on Palestinians exercising their rights to free speech, arresting, intimidating or confiscating equipment from scores of journalists.

In June, Abbas approved a decree imposing sweeping restrictions on what Palestinians are allowed to say online. The so-called Electronic Crimes law has been roundly condemned by Palestinian and international human rights and free speech defenders.

The PA annually receives hundreds of millions of dollars from the European Union and the United States, among other international donors who claim to promote human rights and free speech.

While marketed as support for the Palestinian people, this Western aid is typically conditioned on the PA’s role as a key enforcer of Israel’s occupation, under the banner of “security coordination” with the Israeli army and intelligence services.

This “coordination” includes collaboration with Israeli agencies that torture Palestinians.

Human rights groups have documented dozens of cases of Palestinians detained and interrogated by the PA’s Preventive Security prior to their arrest by Israel.

Not intimidated

Despite his arrest, Amro is sending the message that he is not intimidated. According to the statement from Youth Against Settlements, Amro believes “there are some parties in the Palestinian Authority that are afraid of the press and activists who call for reform and transparency, as well as those who encourage the leadership of youth in Palestinian society.”

“Instead of arresting activists who demand reform, the Palestinian Authority must fight and arrest those responsible for corruption and coordination with the Israeli military, which is destroying Palestinian society.”

Youth Against Settlements has launched a petition demanding that Abbas free Amro.

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Issa Amro has done much to bring the plight of Palestinians in al-Khalil (Hebron) to the attention of the world. The fact that he is now in PA custody for the crime of defending truthful journalism illustrates how few options remain to Palestinians seeking justice. Let's support him in whatever way we can. He's a national treasure.

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For God's sake stop persecuting this good man. Netanyahu & Abbas are both guilty.

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Is there a way to donate directly to a fund that is supporting Issa?

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It is high time for the "Palestinian Authority" to change course in dealing with its own people and in dealing with the Zionist colonialist entity some call Israel.

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