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Israeli court extends detention of 5 Palestinians for Facebook posts

Dec. 29, 2014 1:39 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 30, 2014 11:38 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli court on Sunday extended the detention of five Palestinians from East Jerusalem related to charges of "incitement" on their personal Facebook pages, lawyers said.

The five were detained along with three others in mid-December for their Facebook posts, and following interrogation Israeli authorities decided to indict them on charges of "incitement and support for terror organizations."

Lawyers Tariq Barghouth, who works for the Palestinian Department of Prisoners' Affairs, and Muhammad Mahmoud, from Addameer human rights group, asked the judge to release the defendants conditionally but the judge refused.

Instead the judge extended the detention of the five and was scheduled to respond late Sunday to the lawyers' request about the other three. As of press time, their fate was still unclear.

According to the lawyers, the five whose detention was extended are Nasser al-Hidmi, Tariq al-Kurd, Fuad Ruweidi, Ibrahim Abdeen, and Udayy Bayoumi. Meanwhile, the judge is set to decide what to do with Udayy Sunnuqrut, Omar Shalabia, and Sami Ideis.

The indictment bills submitted to the court by the Israeli prosecution included quotes from the Facebook accounts of the defendants.

The quotes appear to have been posted in recent months as they directly reference current events such as Israel's massive assault on Gaza that left nearly 2,200 dead over summer as well as the shooting of an Israeli extremist preacher in early fall.

"It is nice to abduct soldiers. We will return to Ashdod and tread on the Jews," Udayy Bayoumi allegedly wrote on his Facebook page, according to his bill of indictment, presumably referring to Hamas operations targeting Israeli forces in the southern Israeli city while Gaza was under bombardment.

The bill also included quotes such as "We are all Hamas. We want war … we want Intifada."

The bill also included a video of Palestinian resistance operations, which Bayoumi, reportedly shared on his Facebook page. Such videos are released by the group to the general public and are widely broadcast by Palestinian media and watched by the general public.

The indictment bill submitted against Omar Shalabi included quotes such as "May Glick not recover from his injuries, and go to hell and die lowly like a dog."

Shalabi was referring to right-wing extremist rabbi Yehuda Glick, who has called for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque and was injured in an assassination attempt in late October.

Udayy Sunnuqrut, meanwhile, allegedly wrote on his Facebook: "Beware of natural death and do not die but as martyrs."

Israeli authorities have in recent years detained numerous Palestinians inside Israel as well as in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank for posting comments or statuses on Facebook they said somehow praised violence against Israel.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Israel 112th in the world for press freedom in its 2013 report, arguing that while Israeli journalists enjoy freedom of expression, there are major structural barriers related to military control and security issues that prevent a free press more generally.

The limitations imposed against Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of East Jerusalem are generally much higher than those against Jewish citizens of Israel.

Israeli Jews on social media routinely and openly incite violence against Palestinians, especially during heightened periods of tensions such as this summer's military offensive on Gaza.

Israeli Jews, however, are rarely if ever prosecuted for such posts and comments on social media.
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