BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Amnesty International on Sunday urged the Palestinian Authority to drop criminal charges against four activists from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement after security forces detained them in April.
PA security officers and men in civilian clothes attacked and arrested Zaid Shuaibi, Fajer Harb, Fadi Quran, and Abed al-Fatah Hamayel during a peaceful protest in Ramallah's al-Qasaba Theatre on April 12.
Zaid Shuaibi told Amnesty International that he and fellow activists entered the theater to protest against a show by a dance group which had performed in Israel the previous day.
Before the show began, Shuaibi stood and explained why they were against the show. Minutes later, he was surrounded by men dressed in civilian clothes who ordered him to leave the theater.
Not knowing who the men were , he refused, but then left willingly when asked to do so by a uniformed police officer. While leaving, one the of men in civilian clothes punched him in the back of the head and the police officer grabbed him by the neck in a violent manner.
According to Shuaibi, as soon as he was out of sight from the cameras and crowd, the men in civilian clothes and other police officers began to assault him.
Fajer Harb, Fadi Quran, and Abd al-Fatah Hamayel were arrested for protesting against the beating and all four men were taken to a police station.
They were denied lawyers and pressured to sign a statement for their release, which they refused. The four were charged with criminal offenses set out by Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 in 1960, including "disturbing the peace" and "disturbing public order," but were released, pending a court hearing scheduled for 28 May 2014.
"We urge the PA to drop the criminal charges against them and to ensure an independent and impartial investigation into their allegations of ill-treatment," Amnesty said.
"Furthermore, the reported treatment of the four men once in custody has undermined their right to a fair trial and raises concerns that they are being punished for their political protest. Amnesty International emphasizes that peaceful expression and protest must never be punished as criminal offenses and that imprisonment is always a disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression."