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Salafis say Hamas security preventing new political party

Oct. 15, 2012 11:08 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 16, 2012 1:58 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The founders of a new Salafi political party said Monday that their official launch is being obstructed by Hamas security forces, not legal regulations as the government in Gaza has claimed.

Last week, Salafis announced the Al-Nur party, or 'party of the light', would start officially operating in the coming days. It said it would work on similar lines to an Egyptian party of the same name, which follows an ultra-conservative Islamic ideology.

On Saturday a spokesman for Gaza's interior ministry said officials had met with the party founders to brief them on necessary legal procedures before their party can function.

Islam Shahwan said the Hamas-run government would not oppose the establishment of any new political party as long as the process is carried out according to Palestinian law.

But the Al-Nur founders said in a statement on Monday that they had not been briefed about how to establish their party, and have delayed the party's establishment based on instructions from the security services.

In fact, the statement said, there are no such articles in Palestinian law governing how political parties are established or how they should function.

They urged the government to appoint a committee of government officials to meet with the party founders to work out a way to approve the party, and not include security officials in the process.

The Palestinian Basic Law, which functions as a temporary constitution, guarantees Palestinians the right to "form, establish and join political parties in accordance with the law," but does not elaborate on procedures.

Since the Gaza Strip split from the West Bank in 2007, establishing rival governments dominated by Hamas and Fatah respectively, efforts to pass or amend legislation have foundered without a functioning parliament.

Salafi activity in Gaza has provoked periodic crackdowns by the Hamas government. In 2009, Hamas raided a mosque in Rafah and killed 28 people after a Salafi imam declared an Islamic emirate in Gaza.

Hundreds of Salafi supporters gathered in Gaza on Sunday after two senior leaders were killed by an Israeli airstrike the previous evening.
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