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Israel orders jail without charge for PLC speaker

Jan. 24, 2012 11:37 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 25, 2012 8:21 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- An Israeli military court on Tuesday ordered the detention of Palestinian parliamentary speaker Aziz Dweik for six months without charge.

Dweik, who was seized by Israeli forces at a Ramallah checkpoint on Thursday, heads the Palestinian Legislative Council. His lawyer Fadi Qawasmi said Ofer military court gave the administrative detention order early Tuesday, after a Sunday hearing was postponed.

The PLC speaker's office denounced the order as an "abusive decision without any charge or legal justification," accusing Israel of trying to stop a parliamentary session scheduled for next month.

"It is an Israeli attempt to thwart Palestinian reconciliation," the statement said.

The Palestinian parliament has been inactive since Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007, a year after Hamas won parliamentary elections. The parties signed a reconciliation agreement in May 2011 but it has yet to be implemented.

Since Dweik's detention, three other MPs and a former minister, all members of the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform Bloc, have been seized by Israeli forces.

On Tuesday morning, soldiers seized Abul Jabbar Fuqaha from his Ramallah home, days after entering the premises of the International Red Cross in East Jerusalem to detain MP Mohammad Tawtah and former Jerusalem affairs' minister Khalid Abu Arafa, and storming the Bethelehm home of MP Khaled Tafesh.

The PLC speaker's office urged the international community to "break its silence and stop compliance to the Israeli occupation which undermines all international conventions."

Tawtah and Abu Arafa had been sheltering in the Red Cross compound for 18 months after Israel revoked their residency permits. The ICRC has said it told Israeli authorities that international humanitarian law prohibited the forcible transfer of Palestinian residents from their homes, for whatever reason, while warning the officials the compound had no special status and could not prevent police entry.

PLO official Saeb Erekat, who is holding exploratory talks with Israeli envoys in Jordan, said on Monday the detention of the politicians "exposes the farcical nature of (Israel's) peace rhetoric." He urged the international Quartet, which is brokering the talks, to intervene.

There are now 27 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council detained in Israeli jails, according to prisoners rights group Addameer.

Israel holds 307 Palestinians in administrative detention, including 19 PLC members, for renewable terms of six months that do not require a trial or charges, according to the groups' latest figures.
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