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PA releases Issa Amro on bail, charged with 'causing strife' over Facebook post

Sept. 10, 2017 9:35 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 17, 2017 10:47 A.M.)
Issa Amro being taken from the PA courtroom in Hebron on Dep. 7. (Youth Against Settlements)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro, imprisoned for criticizing the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Facebook, was released from a PA detention center on a $1,400 bail.

Youth Against Settlement (YAS), a group based in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron headed by Amro that is dedicated to non-violent resistance against the Israeli occupation, announced on their Facebook page that Amro had been released, though the charges against him had not been dropped.

Amro was arrested last week after turning himself into Palestinian security forces. PA officials had requested Amro to present himself to authorities over a Facebook post in which he denounced the PA for arresting the director of a Hebron’s Manbar al-Hurriya radio station Ayman Qawasmeh, who was released after three days of detention.

Amro criticized the PA for threatening journalists not to publicize Qawasmeh’s arrest -- which took place after Qawasmeh posted on Facebook, calling for the resignation of the Palestinian president, prime minister, and Hebron’s governor -- and called on the PA to respect and protect international and domestic law.

According to prisoners rights group Addameer, the charges against Amro include “causing strife” and a “broad accusation of criminal action” under the PA's controversial Cyber Crimes Law.

The law has been slammed by rights groups, including Amnesty International, which said that the law “marks a dramatic escalation in the Palestinian authorities’ onslaught against freedom of expression.”

A video posted to the YAS facebook page showed Amro speaking to reporters on Sunday, thanking his friends in Palestine “and all over the world” for their work in securing his release.

Amro went on to say that the Israeli occupation remained the greatest threat to the Palestinian and that his detention by PA forces “will not stop me and will not stop any Palestinian from resisting the occupation or from the freedom of speech of the Palestinian people.”

The PA’s case against Amro also comes as the human rights defender faces 18 charges in Israeli military court related to his activism and organizing protests against Israel’s discriminatory policies in Hebron in violation of international law.

Under Military Order 101, Israeli authorities have arrested and detained hundreds of thousands of Palestinians over the past five decades -- including women and children -- simply for attending peaceful protests that were deemed by Israeli forces to be political.

Addameer released a statement on Sunday following Amro’s release, highlighting the widely criticized security coordination between Israel and the PA, saying that while the coordination has “always been a known fact...the current form of oppression is something new.”

“This case represents more than simply a gross violation of the freedom of expression, it tells us all as Palestinians that the PA, our supposed government, values it own survival and prestige over the rights of its people,” the group said.

Addameer called for the PA and Israel to immediately drop the charges against Amro, the nullification of the Cyber Crimes Law, and for the PA “to abide by its international obligations as signatories of the basic instruments of human rights law.”

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