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Former prisoner of Israel detained by PA, reportedly for criticizing Fatah on Facebook

June 11, 2017 1:01 P.M. (Updated: June 11, 2017 10:53 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- A former prisoner of Israel, 23-year-old Nassar Jaradat, has been detained by the Palestinian Authority (PA) over Facebook posts critical of the Palestinian Authority's ruling Fatah party, according to local media reports and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), as both Palestinian and Israeli authorities continue to crack down on dissident voices in the occupied territory.

A Palestinian court in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah ordered to extend Jaradat’s remand by 15 days on Saturday, three days after he was arrested, accord to reports.

Jaradat was reportedly arrested for writing statements critical of Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rujoub, who recently said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that the Western Wall in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City should “remain under Jewish sovereignty.” Jaradat was also reportedly accused of criticizing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In a public Facebook post last Sunday, Jaradat slammed Rujoub for "giving away to the unworthy what you don't own personally," referring to the controversial interview, that many interpreted as Rujoub ceding the Western Wall to Israel, despite the fact that East Jerusalem is considered to be the capital of any future Palestinian state and an intricate part of the Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel in 1967.

Jaradat denounced Rujoub and Fatah leadership for "falling over themselves" to gain the acceptance of Israel, echoing a similar statement by Hamas that had described Rujoub's comments as a misguided and misleading attempt to "present Fatah leaders to Israeli society as doves of peace.”

In response to a request for comment, spokesperson for the Palestinian security services Adnan Dmeiri told Ma'an he had "no idea" about Jaradat's case, but said "I can confirm that we don't arrest anybody for expressing their opinion." He posited that Jaradat could have been arrested upon orders by the general prosecution if an individual filed a complaint against him for defamation and slander.

Jerusalem-based news outlet the al-Quds Network quoted Jaradat's father as saying his son was a former prisoner of Israel and an agricultural engineering student at al-Quds Open University in Ramallah.

The leftist PFLP faction, along with numerous Palestinians who have taken to social media in recent days denouncing the arrest, demanded that the PA immediately release Jaradat.

The PFLP argued that the arrest came amid an ongoing “suppression of freedom of expression” of Palestinians that “provides a direct service to the (Israeli) occupation.”

The faction said it also held the PA responsible for the risk Jaradat now faces of being detained by Israel after his hoped-for release, as part of the PA’s widely condemned policy of security coordination with Israel that Palestinian factions have denounced as a “revolving door policy,” in which activists are cycled in and out of Palestinian jails and Israeli prisons for the same offenses.

The PFLP slammed the arrest of Jaradat based on his writings on social media as showing “great disregard for the sentiments of the Palestinian people.”

“The (PA) should be holding accountable and arresting those who disregard and undermine the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, not those who criticize the policy of security coordination and the Palestinian Authority’s political direction and leadership.”

The PFLP urged human rights organizations to “act quickly for the release of Jaradat and all political detainees held by the Palestinian Authority. The PA’s continued repression is unacceptable and fully condemned.”

Hundreds of Palestinians have been detained for social media activity in recent months, with Israeli authorities alleging that a wave of unrest that swept the occupied Palestinian territory last October was encouraged by Palestinian "incitement,” though Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel's 50-year occupation and the absence of a political horizon as reasons for acts of violence.

Israeli news daily Haaretz reported in April that Israeli forces detained at least 400 Palestinians in less than a year over social media activity, and that 400 others were detained for the same reason by the Palestinian Authority through security coordination.

The Hamas movement said on Thursday, after the PA allegedly detained four Palestinians in the West Bank -- including al-Khadouri University student Mahmoud Abu Hamra from Tulkarem, who was released from Israeli prison 10 days prior -- that “tens” of other Palestinians remained in PA custody for “political reasons.”

Bahaa al-Zghir from Hebron, former prisoner Hussien al-Ghoul from Qalqiliya, and Mahmoud Diab from Nablus were also detained that day, according to the statement.

The statement highlighted that former prisoner Hamza Zablah from Hebron, who launched a hunger strike when he was detained on May 23, was still being held 18 days later, while Ruhi Abu Shamsiya was in detention for the 35th day at the time.

Hamas also said in the report that the PA continued to hold “political detainee” Muhammad al-Aqra from Qalqiliya, who was on hunger strike in protest of his detention for more than two months.

PA forces also continued to detain al-Quds University student and former prisoner Anas Abu Qari for the 18th day as of Thursday without any charges being brought against him, according to Hamas.

Hamas claimed in an earlier report that a total of 103 Palestinians were detained by the PA over the month of May, including 67 former prisoners of Israel, 83 former political detainees of PA, three journalists, 15 university students, one high school student, and four imams.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (Mada) documented 86 violations against media freedoms by PA forces in 2016, highlighting a continuation of Palestinian authorities “prosecuting journalists in relation to their publications on social media sites,” and inflicting “certain types of torture” on the detainees.

Mada said earlier this week that Palestinian violations against media freedoms increased to 18 violations in May compared to April, when only eight violations were recorded.

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