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PA arrest of Issa Amro ‘shameless attack on freedom of expression’

Image of Palestinian activist Issa Amro [Facebook]
Image of Palestinian activist Issa Amro [Facebook]

Amnesty International has criticised the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) arrest of a Palestinian human rights defender over a Facebook post, the human rights organisation have said in a statement.

“The arrest of a Palestinian human rights defender today who criticised the Palestinian authorities on Facebook is a shameless attack on freedom of expression,” the statement said.

Issa Amro, a Hebron based coordinator for Youth Against Settlements and a former field researcher for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, was detained on Monday by Palestinian Preventive Security Forces, Amnesty International said.

His arrest came after he posted comments on his Facebook page criticising the arrest of a local radio journalist on Sunday by the same Palestinian security forces.

“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online,” the statement said, noting that “criticising the authorities should not be a criminal offence”.

Read: PA continues ‘arbitrary’ detention of Palestinian man despite release orders

“The arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” the deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, Magdalena Mughrabi, said.

“We have seen an alarming escalation in the Palestinian authorities’ clampdown on freedom of expression in recent months,” she added.

Mughrabi called for the PA to release Amro and stop harassing activists:

“Instead of continuing to step up their efforts to quash dissenting voices, the Palestinian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Issa Amro and stop harassing and intimidating activists and others for daring to speak their minds freely,” she said.

Amro, who has long been hassled by Israeli authorities, has attracted worldwide attention. In 2016 activists rallied in support of him preceding a military trial in which he faced 18 charges. In July, 32 Democratic members of the US Congress signed a letter calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to use his influence with Israel to stop Amro’s trial.

On its website, Amnesty International said that it had recently highlighted a chilling escalation in attacks on media and freedom of expression by both the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Hamas administration in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority in West Bank shut down several news websites and arrested a number of journalists. Hamas in Gaza has arrested two journalists, one on criminal charges, rights groups which visited him during his detention said.

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