Palestinian Human Rights Activist Arrested Over A Facebook Post

Palestinian security forces are cracking down on the freedom of expression, by arresting those who express dissent with the government.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

UPDATE: Issa Amro was released on bail for 1,000 Jordanian dinars ($1,410) on Sept. 10, after widespread international support for his release. 

Following his release, Amro determined that he would continue to speak out against crimes against human rights and fight for Palestinian freedom.

“This detention will not stop me from resisting the occupation — or the freedom of speech of the Palestinian people,” Amro said.

Nine United States members of Congress wrote a letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, requesting that he "immediately drop the baseless charges" against Amro.

While Amro has been released from Palestinian Authority clutches, he still faces 18 charges in an Israeli military court related to his political activity and nonviolent activism. 

Freedom of expression was shut down in Palestine on Monday after security forces arrested human rights advocate Issa Amro, for speaking out against the arrest of radio journalist Ayman Qawasmi.

Amro, a coordinator for the NGO Youth Against Settlements, had posted on Facebook about the wrongful arrest of Qawasmi, who had called for the resignation of President Mahmoud Abbas.

“There are journalists who are being threatened by the security forces for publishing the news about Ayman Qawasmi’s arrest. I hope that every journalist in the country publishes this news because it is true, 100 percent, not a rumour,” Amro wrote in the post. “Secondly, I call on everyone who gets threatened to talk to me, so we can complain about these threats to the Europeans and document the illegal violations.”

Ahmed Amro, Issa Amro’s brother, claims security forces went to their family home in Hebron Sunday evening searching for Issa Amro, and invited him to talk. After Issa Amro went to meet the forces for “a conversation,” he was never heard from again.

“We have no way of communicating with him,” Ahmed Amro told Middle East Eye. “My brother didn’t do anything wrong. We don’t know why they arrested him.”

Ayman Qawasmi was arrested on Sunday after writing that Abbas should resign for "failing to protect the Palestinian people." Qawasmi's radio station was closed last week by the Israeli military for allegedly inciting violence.

“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” said Magdalena Mughrabi Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

These arrests follow recent pressure to repress dissenting voices in Palestine. In the West Bank, the Palestinian authorities have arrested six journalists in August, shut down 29 websites, and introduced a controversial Electronic Crimes Law that bans online dissent, reported Amnesty International.

“This is a chilling setback for freedom of expression in Palestine,” said Mughrabi. ““By rounding up journalists and shutting down opposition websites the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip appear to be using police state tactics to silence critical media and arbitrarily block people’s access to information.”

The Electronic Crimes Law can affect anyone who can be seen to have disturbed “public order” and can carry a sentence of up to 15 years hard labor — for simply sharing an opinion online. The value of freedom of expression around the world cannot be summarized. Journalists have a duty to share their truth with others, and denying that truth is denying simple freedoms.

Palestine must rethink these arrests and drop charges against those freely expressing opinion. This crackdown is a violation of human rights and people will not stand for it.

Banner/Thumbnail Credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

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