Palestinian activist Issa Amro. (Screenshot) (Screenshot)
Issa Amro

The Palestinians are pursuing their policy of stifling any criticism of Abbas’ regime.

Palestinian security forces have detained a prominent activist after he called for Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas to resign.

A lawyer representing Issa Amro, a human rights activist from Hebron, said his client was arrested Monday after posting his comments on Facebook.

Ayman Qawasmi, a Palestinian reporter, was arrested on Sunday after writing that Abbas should resign for “failing to protect the Palestinian people.”

Abbas, 82, issued the decree at a time when he is facing new domestic challenges to his rule.

Polls routinely show that two-thirds of Palestinians want Abbas to resign. He was elected to five years in 2005, but stayed on, arguing that political disagreement with Hamas prevented new elections. With parliament paralyzed as a result of the political split, Abbas has ruled by decree.

The arrests are the latest in recent crackdown on journalists and the freedom of speech by the Palestinian Authority.

‘Shameless Attack on Freedom of Expression’

Amnesty International calls Amro’s arrest “a shameless attack on freedom of expression.”

“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech,” Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Middle East director, said.

“We have seen an alarming escalation in the Palestinian authorities’ clampdown on freedom of expression in recent months. Instead of continuing to step up their efforts to quash dissenting voices, the Palestinian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Issa Amro and stop harassing and intimidating activists and others for daring to speak their minds freely,” she added.

The human rights organization has recently highlighted “a chilling escalation in attacks on media and freedom of expression by the PA and Hamas in Gaza, “detaining a string of journalists and shutting down opposition websites.”

The PA’s new Cyber Crimes Law, issued by presidential decree in June, has been described by rights groups as “draconian” and “the worst law in the PA’s history.”

The new decree stipulates prison terms ranging from one year to life for those who use digital means for a range of all-encompassing offenses. The list includes endangering the safety of the state or the public order as well as harming national unity or social peace.

A number of journalists have already been detained under the new law.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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