Photo: Amnesty International

Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro was released from Palestinian Authority jails on Sunday, 10 September, following a widespread international outcry among human rights organizations and others. Amro, who is also facing 18 charges by an Israeli military court for his popular advocacy against illegal settlements in al-Khalil, was jailed on 4 September by PA security after posting critical commentary about the PA to Facebook.

The al-Khalil Magistrate’s Court ordered Amro released on a bail of 1,000 Jordanian dinars ($1410 USD). The release came following a growing international call and demands by numerous human rights groups to release him.

Upon his release, Amro, coordinator of Youth Against Settlements in al-Khalil and a recognized human rights defender by the European Union and United Nations, urged the abolition of the Electronic Crimes Law, a new PA law put into place by decree by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Widely condemned by Palestinian human rights organizations and political parties as well as Amnesty International, the law aims to criminalize a broad swath of critical commentary on social media sites like Facebook under the pretext of disrupting social harmony or similar allegations.

The law and associated repressive arrests of journalists and activists by the PA come amid the targeting of hundreds of Palestinians for arrest and imprisonment by the Israeli occupation for their social media posts. It also highlights the issue of PA security coordination with Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people, especially activists and human rights defenders.

Amro said that he was arrested for expressing his personal opinion on matters of concern to the Palestinian population, saying to Wattan TV that “I am a citizen who loves my country, and I reject the charges against me of setting up pages that harm the security of Palestine.”

Amnesty International, nine members of U.S. Congress and European institutions had called for the release of Amro. There is a campaign involving many organizations against his Israeli military charges that also took up the call for his release from PA detention. Amro’s case was perhaps the most prominent of the recent cases of PA imprisonment of activists for social media posts; his arrest itself came as a result of his criticism of the PA’s arrest of journalist Ayman Qawasmeh after his radio station was raided by Israeli forces. Qawasmeh was later released.