‘They want to si­lence me’: Amro

Pales­tini­ans re­lease ac­tivist jailed for Facebook post

Northern News (Kirkland Lake) - - WORLD NEWS - MO­HAM­MAD DARAGHMEH

HE­BRON, Pales­tinian Ter­ri­tory — A Pales­tinian ac­tivist who has run afoul of both the Pales­tinian and Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties was re­leased from a Pales­tinian jail Sun­day, a week af­ter he was ar­rested for writ­ing a Facebook post crit­i­cal of Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas.

Issa Amro, who says he pur­sues a path of non-vi­o­lence against dis­crim­i­na­tory Is­raeli poli­cies and Jewish set­tle­ments in the West Bank city of He­bron, now faces the rare predica­ment of crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings in both an Is­raeli mil­i­tary court and a Pales­tinian court.

Amro was ar­rested on Sept. 4 for writ­ing a Facebook post crit­i­ciz­ing the de­ten­tion of a Pales­tinian journalist who was ar­rested for call­ing for Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas’s res­ig­na­tion.

His at­tor­ney said Sun­day that Amro was re­leased on $1,400 bail af­ter be­ing held un­der a re­cent edict that al­lows the govern­ment to crack down on so­cial me­dia crit­ics. Farid Atrash said it was “shame­ful” that his client was ar­rested for ex­er­cis­ing his right of free ex­pres­sion.

“They want to si­lence me and si­lence ev­ery voice de­fend­ing hu­man rights, but they are wrong. I will con­tinue de­fend­ing hu­man rights and struggling against oc­cu­pa­tion,” he said fol­low­ing his re­lease from jail on Sun­day. He de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

In jail last week, Amro be­gan a hunger strike to protest what he said was an un­law­ful de­ten­tion, made with­out a war­rant or due process.

Fol­low­ing his re­lease, Amro said he was ver­bally and phys­i­cally abused dur­ing his in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Pales­tinian se­cu­rity.

Though he has been freed from jail for now, Amro’s le­gal bat­tles are only just start­ing.

Amro, a 35-year-old ac­tivist whose or­ga­ni­za­tion Youth Against Set­tle­ments protests against Is­raeli set­tle­ments in his home­town of He­bron, also faces charges at an Is­raeli mil­i­tary court for al­legedly in­cit­ing vi­o­lence and hin­der­ing sol­diers dur­ing of­fi­cial du­ties. His trial is to re­sume in Oc­to­ber.

De­spite fac­ing dou­ble-bar­rel le­gal bat­tles for his po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties, Amro vows to press for­ward with what he says is a non-vi­o­lent strug­gle.

“I know the law and never, ever vi­o­lated it,” he said. “I never in­cited for vi­o­lence, I never in­cited against any of­fi­cial. I call for hu­man rights.”

Amro’s ar­rest by Pales­tinian se­cu­rity last week prompted rights groups to urge the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity to re­lease him. Amnesty In­ter­na­tional con­demned his ar­rest as “a shame­less at­tack on free­dom of ex­pres­sion.”

Last week nine mem­bers of U.S. Congress penned a let­ter to Ab­bas ask­ing him to “im­me­di­ately drop the base­less charges and re­lease” Amro, call­ing his de­ten­tion “ex­tremely con­cern­ing.”

In June, 32 mem­bers of Congress signed a let­ter to Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son urg­ing him to per­suade Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties to drop charges against Amro. The law­mak­ers ex­pressed concern that some of the al­le­ga­tions against him are “not in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­niz­able crim­i­nal of­fences” and that the mil­i­tary court “will not ren­der a fair and im­par­tial ver­dict.”

In July, two United Na­tions hu­man rights rap­por­teurs said the Is­raeli charges against him were “di­rected squarely at his law­ful right to peace­fully protest.”

Amro, like sev­eral other Pales­tinian jour­nal­ists, was ar­rested and charged with dis­turb­ing pub­lic or­der un­der a re­cently passed Elec­tronic Crimes Law, and “caus­ing strife” un­der a 1960 Jor­da­nian law. Hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tions have noted a spike in jour­nal­ists ar­rested by the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity in the West Bank, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the vaguely worded de­cree in July.

The law en­ables the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity govern­ment to jail those who harm “na­tional unity” or the “so­cial fab­ric” online. Crit­ics say the edict, is­sued with­out prior NASSER SHIYOUKHI/AP PHOTO pub­lic de­bate, is per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant step yet by Ab­bas’ govern­ment to re­strict free­dom of ex­pres­sion in the au­ton­o­mous Pales­tinian en­claves of the Is­rae­lioc­cu­pied West Bank.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional re­ported that Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity se­cu­rity ser­vices ar­rested at least six jour­nal­ists in Au­gust and shut down dozens of web­sites in a ma­jor crack­down on free speech.

Pales­tinian ac­tivist Issa Amro speaks af­ter his re­lease from de­ten­tion, in the West Bank city of He­bron, on Sun­day.

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