Bara al-Qadi, a 22-year-old undergraduate at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank, was arrested for allegedly “insulting a public official” after posting a satirical Facebook “status” about Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official and head of the Palestinian Authority’s sports department.
The status reads: “Jibril Rajoub (Abu Rami) should hand in his resignation as the president of the Sports Union after the shameful performance of the Palestine national [soccer] team and their 5-1 loss to Jordan.”
In addition to Rajoub, the status pokes fun at Majed Faraj, the PA’s head of general intelligence, by likening him to Captain Majed, the hero of a popular Arabic-language cartoon series. Al-Qadi suggested that Captain Majed had “more experience in the sports field” than PA officials.
On 23 January, the PA sent al-Qadi a letter notifying him that he was required to visit the Ramallah police station for interrogation three days later. If he failed to show up, the letter stated, “we will issue an arrest warrant.”
“When he went to the interview, they held him,” Bara al-Qadi’s sister, Tasneem, told The Electronic Intifada. She said that his interrogation was extended for 48 hours. He was released this evening (Thursday).
Tasneem believes that the PA continues to target her brother, who is also the head of the Birzeit University media club, “because his political views [are against] the PA’s policies. He always criticizes them.”
Explaining that her brother has a large following on Facebook, Tasneem said “he is not afraid to express his opinion” and “people listen to him because his criticisms of the PA are rational.”
History of harassment
Each time al-Qadi has been held for interrogation, he has been told that he would be arrested again if he continued to speak out against the PA, according to Tasneem. She explained that the PA began harassing her brother for his political opinions shortly after he started university in 2010.
Al-Qadi was most recently arrested on 14 September, when the PA’s intelligence forces detained him for more than two weeks. He was “accused of defaming the public authority in journalistic posts he published on social networks and information websites such as al-Quds and Watan,” according to a report published by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) at the time.
Back in 2010, al-Qadi was shot by an Israeli soldier near the Qalandiya checkpoint between occupied East Jerusalem and Ramallah. Israeli forces subsequently detained him for ten days before he was released.
Palestinian and international human rights groups regularly decry both Israel and the Palestinian Authority for their violations of press freedom. Yet Palestinian journalists continue to suffer from the two-pronged crackdown.
Noting a clear “escalation of violations” in December, another MADA report states that Israeli and Palestinian forces committed a combined total of thirty violations against Palestinian journalists throughout that month.
MADA notes that the Palestinian Authority targeted “journalists, media students and activists for their writings on Facebook” last month.
Israeli forces often fatally target Palestinian journalists in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. At least sixteen journalists were killed during Israel’s summer military assault on Gaza.
The PA has grown increasingly repressive, frequently detaining and interrogating activists and journalists for their postings on social media.
Human rights groups and journalists have also accused the PA of torture. As reported by The Electronic Intifada, independent journalist Mohamed Jaradat, formerly based in Ramallah, was tortured by PA officers during interrogation in July 2012. After being arrested and beaten yet again in June 2014, Jaradat left Palestine.
Aware of the PA’s poor human rights record and contempt for outspoken activists, Tasneem said that her brother’s imprisonment has had a severe impact on her family.
“It is especially hard because he has health problems,” she said, explaining that he has a respiratory condition caused by the injuries he sustained when the Israeli military shot him. “It is hardest on our mother.”
This post has been corrected to state that al-Qadi was released this week, rather than last week.