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.
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.
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.
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.