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Palestinian Authority curbs freedom of expression in the West Bank

February 17, 2014 at 11:19 pm

The security services in the occupied West Bank have detained more than 60 Palestinians with political backgrounds, including writers, journalists and activists, Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights (DAHR) said on Thursday. At least 35 of those held are former prisoners who served long sentences in Israeli jails; most are affiliated to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas).

Sources said that the security services started detention campaigns against citizens who took part in the recent demonstrations against price rises in the West Bank. Demonstrators called for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to resign.

Prisoner Hisham al-Shirbati, who spent 14 years in prison in Israel, was reportedly in a serious health condition after being admitted to Al-Khalil Hospital. He was tortured severely by Palestinian security services in Hebron, writer Lama Khater alleged.

However, a spokesman for the security services in the West Bank, Adnan al-Dameeri, said that all the people arrested recently are “arm dealers” who tried to hijack peaceful protests. According to DAHR, though, most of those detained are journalists, writers and activists, including the prisoners who were freed by the Israelis just a few months ago.

Ahrar Society for Studies and Human Rights said that its manager, Fuad al-Kefish, also a former Israeli prisoner, is among the detained, as is Waleed Khalid, a journalist who spent two years in solitary administrative detention in Israel and was released just two weeks ago.

DAHR condemned the detentions as a severe violation of human rights and a threat to Palestinian civil society. It called for the PA in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to stop all political detentions and press ahead with the reconciliation process. It also called on both to respect freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

The West Bank witnessed large scale demonstrations against the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority’s policies of security collaboration with the Israelis, political detention and the economic crisis. The demonstrations were triggered by a protest against price hikes in which protesters called for the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad.