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Abbas exempts Palestinian officer from serving prison sentence over critical Facebook post

Oct. 13, 2016 9:47 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 13, 2016 5:43 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree on Wednesday releasing officer Osama Mansour after a Ramallah military court sentenced him to a year in prison for a Facebook post critical of Abbas.

Mansour, who served as the director of public relations and media at the Palestinian military liaison -- a unit with the Palestinian security forces responsible for coordinating security with Israel -- was detained on Oct. 1 for publishing a Facebook post asking Abbas to reconsider his decision to attend the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres.

A Palestinian military court in Ramallah ordered on Wednesday that Mansour be sentenced to a year in prison and have his military rank suspended for “disobeying orders.”

However, Abbas decreed that same day that Mansour be retired from security forces instead of serving time in prison.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has come under fire for cracking down on Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territory criticizing the Palestinian government.

In August, International NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report notably revealing that Palestinian security forces in the West Bank had detained activists and rap musicians for criticizing the PA’s well-known security cooperation with Israel, while also accusing the government of corruption.

The group stated that the recent violations of freedom of speech represented a larger pattern by Palestinian authorities which has been documented by the group over the past five years.

“At a time when many Palestinians are critical of their leaders, the crackdowns have a chilling effect on public debate in the traditional news media, and on social media,” the report read.

Despite the fact that violations of press freedoms by Palestinian authorities have been fewer and less severe than those committed by Israeli authorities, Palestinian press freedoms watchdog MADA noted in a recent report that as a direct result of violations by Palestinian authorities, Palestinian journalists and media workers “avoid addressing several topics” and practiced self censorship.

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