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PA continues politically motivated arrests across occupied West Bank, Hamas says

June 14, 2017 6:00 P.M. (Updated: June 15, 2017 9:51 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- According to a statement released by the Hamas movement, Palestinian Authority (PA) forces arrested four Palestinians on Wednesday, including two university students, a lawyer, and a teacher, in a continuation of what the group has claimed is a wave of arrests targeting Palestinians over their political opinions.

In the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, PA intelligence services arrested Muhammad al-Khatib, a student at Birzeit University, after raiding his apartment. According to Hamas, al-Khatib is the son of Fathi al-Khatib, a leader of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades -- the armed wing of Hamas -- who is currently serving 29 life sentences in Israeli prison.

The statement noted that PA intelligence services also arrested a former prisoner of Israel and Palestinian lawyer Mreisheh Shreitah from the al-Mazraa al-Gharbiyeh village in Ramallah.

In the northern West Bank, PA security services arrested a student at the al-Najah University in Nablus, whom Hamas identified as Ahmad Darwish, who had previously been detained by the PA owing to his political background.

The PA also arrested a teacher, Muhammad Mualla, from the Beita village in the Nablus district, who teaches at the Palestine Technical University - Kadoorie in the city of Tulkarem.

The statement added that the PA has continued to hold three students from the Palestine Technical University - Kadoorie, identified by Hamas as Yahya Sway, Izz al-Din Freihat, and Mahmoud Abu Hamra.

PA intelligence services in Jericho have refused to release Rawhi Abu Shamsiyeh, a student at Hebron University who has been held by the PA for 40 days, despite a release order being issued by a PA court on Tuesday and his family already paying the required bail for his release, according to the statement.

In addition, the PA summoned Sheikh Mutasem al-Gadaam, the Imam of al-Sadeq al-Amin Mosque in the village of Yatta in Hebron, for interrogations, Hamas said.

The statement highlighted that dozens of other political prisoners have remained in PA prisons.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network Samidoun reported on Tuesday that rallies were being planned in Ramallah city to demand the release of Nasser Jaradat.

The 23-year-old agricultural engineering student and active youth organizer was reportedly detained on June 8 for writing a Facebook post 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.”

Spokesperson for the Palestinian security services Adnan Dmeiri told Ma'an on Monday that he had "no idea" about Jaradat's case, but said "I can confirm that we don't arrest anybody for expressing their opinion."

However, Palestinian prisoners’ solidarity network Samidoun said that Jaradat’s arrest was part of an ongoing trend of the PA “arresting Palestinians for voicing their political opinions on Facebook,” as part of Israel’s widely condemned policy of security coordination with Israel that critics have described as a “revolving door” that funnels activists from PA jails to Israeli prisons.

The left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) released a statement last week, condemning Jaradat's detention, saying that the PA has shown "great disregard for the sentiments of the Palestinian people."

“The Authority 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 added.

Samidoun, meanwhile, also noted the continued imprisonment of activists of Seif al-Idrissi and Kifah Quzmar by the PA, who the group said have previously been detained for social media posts.

The Union of Palestinian Communities and Organizations in Europe also sent a letter on Tuesday to European parliamentarians urging for Jaradat’s release and condemning the “repressive policies” of the PA.

"At a time when the Israeli occupation launches daily arrest campaigns against Palestinian cadres and Palestinians resisting the occupation, the Palestinian Authority Preventive Security Service arrested youth activist Nassar Jaradat in Ramallah, confiscating his right to freedom of expression," President of the Union Fawzi Ismail said in the letter.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been detained for social media activity in recent months. 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 its security coordination.

The Hamas movement, being the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s political rival and one of the PA’s fiercest critics, is one of the few organizations to document arrest by the PA with any regularity -- reports that Ma’an usually is not able to confirm independently.

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.

On Monday, Hamas released a similar report documenting four political arrests made by the PA.

Meanwhile, Samidoun has also noted that the PA security forces have become involved in internal disputes within the Fatah movement itself, saying that the PA had targeted Palestinian Legislative Council member Alaa Yaghi, a Fatah member reportedly close to Muhammad Dahlan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ political rival.

On Monday, according to Samidoun, PA forces raided Yaghi’s office, “confiscated staff computers, cell phones and belongings, reportedly in violation of Palestinian law.”
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