In the past week, Al-Haq’s field researchers reported eight arrests by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Most of those detained were university students suspected of being affiliated with Hamas and who had previously been arrested several times by the PA security forces or by the Israeli occupying forces. Others were arrested for making political statements on social networking sites or for drawing satirical cartoons (see below). One of these, 23-year-old Hasan Wa’el ‘Abbadi, was arrested and accused of creating disunity through his drawings.
The arrests amount to the repeated violation of the individuals’ rights to freedom of expression and association. The infringement on such rights not only violates international law but also Palestinian Basic Law.
Hasan Wa’el ‘Abbadi – Nablus
On 8 April 2012, an officer from the Palestinian Preventive Security Forces delivered a summons to the family home of Hasan Wa’el ‘Abbadi (23 years old) in Sabastya village, north of Nablus. The document demanded that Hasan present himself at the Palestinian Preventive Security Forces premises in Nablus on 10 April.
Hasan’s brother, Yasin Wa’el ‘Abbadi, (22 years old), reported that his brother left the house two days later to go to the Palestinian Preventive Security Forces offices as directed at 9:00 am. Hasan, who is a student at the faculty of Arts of al-Najah University, is known to draw cartoons reflecting on political and social issues on campus.
On 11 April, Hasan’s lawyer, Reem al-Sayed, phoned Hasan’s family to inform them that Hasan had been arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security Forces and had hired her to defend his case in the first instance court in Nablus the following day. The prosecutor requested that Hasan’s detention be extended for another 15 days to allow for a full investigation. At the time of writing, Hasan is still under arrest and there is a concern among his family that his graduation project is going to suffer as a result of his detention. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 7258/2012)
Hasan’s case is just one example of the continued suppression of the right to freedom of expression by the PA. In recent weeks, at least three journalists were arrested on account of critical statements made against the PA. However, it is difficult to know exactly how many people have been detained in violation of the right to freedom of expression because victims, in many cases, are charged with or accused of penal offenses to mask the political motivation behind their arrest.
Suppression of Freedom of Expression by Palestinian Authority
The following are further recent examples of the suppression of freedom of expression by the Palestinian Authority:
- Hasan Hasan Wa’el ‘Abbadi was released after paying a bail of 3,000 JOD (about 4,000 USD). His court hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, 26 April.
- Yousef Husam al-Din Shayeb, a journalist working for the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad was summoned on 25 March by the Palestinian police regarding an article he wrote questioning the activities of the Palestinian embassy in Paris. The 37-year-old was accused of creating disunity amongst Palestinians and of committing libel and slander. From the initial day of his arrest until his release, on 2 April, Yousef conducted a hunger strike in protest against his arbitrary detention. He was released after paying a bail of 10,000 JOD (about 14,000 USD); however, he is still charged with this crime and is now awaiting for a court hearing to be scheduled.
- ‘Ismat Muhammad ‘Abdel al-Khaleq, a 39-year-old Palestinian journalist, was taking part in a protest on 28 March in solidarity with Yousef Husam al-Din Shayeb, when she was summoned to the Prosecutor's office in Ramallah by a police officer. The Prosecutor accused her of creating disunity amongst Palestinians and of committing libel and slander against president Mahmoud Abbas on her Facebook page. ‘Ismat’s detention period was extended by 15 days to allow for further investigation. In protest at her arbitrary detention, ‘Ismat began a hunger strike. Subsequently, she was taken to hospital and released after paying a bail of 10,000 JOD (about 14,000 USD), she is also still awaiting trial.
- On 1 April, 49-year-old Jamal Muhammad Abu-Rihan, an activist in the Jordan Valley, was summoned by the Palestinian Preventive Security Forces. Jamal, a registrar for the Prosecutor's office in Jericho, runs a facebook page that campaigns for the end of corruption. He was accused of writing political statements against President Mahmoud Abbas on this page. On 19 April, Jamal’s detention was extended for a further 15 days and, at the time of writing, he is still in detention.