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Israeli army 'systematically harassing' iconic Jenin theater

Aug. 22, 2011 7:20 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 24, 2011 9:31 A.M.)
JENIN (Ma'an) -- The Israeli army surrounded the Freedom Theater in Jenin early Monday, beating members of staff and raiding the home of a security guard, a statement from the iconic theater said.

"As I literally entered my home I got a call from neighbors of the theater saying the army had surrounded the theater,” Jason Gough, acting general manager at the Freedom Theater, said.

He returned to the theater where he found Israeli soldiers, who instructed him to turn back. After a second attempt to get closer to the theater, soldiers forced Gough to strip at gunpoint before detaining him, he said.

"They said that they'll beat me up if I even say a word or move."

The Israeli army also raided the home of Mohammed Naghnaghiye, a security guard at the theater, ransacking the house before beating and detaining him, a Freedom Theater statement said.

The army also fired live ammunition in an attempt to disperse a young crowd who had gathered around the home, the statement added.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said three people were detained in Jenin on Monday morning but could not specify if they were from the Freedom Theater.

The incident comes amid a military court hearing on Sunday for three members of the Freedom Theater who were arrested in connection with the murder of former director Juliano Mer Khamis.

The court found that all three had no connection to the murder and must be released within a week.

"This behavior is mounting to systematical harassment of The Freedom Theater by The Israeli army, it is scandalous," Jonathan Stanczak, co-founder of theater said.

"This proves that the Israeli army and security apparatus is either lost in their investigation or that they have the actual intention of damaging the theater.

"It also seems that after the murder of Juliano Mer Khamis The Freedom Theater is no longer exempted from the kind of oppression the Palestinian society is subjected to in general," he added.
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