**UPDATE: Issa Amro was released on bail on Sunday, 10 September.**
Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro remains imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority after his detention was extended an additional four days by the PA, accused of a series of allegations related to public postings on Facebook that are critical of PA officials, including PA president Mahmoud Abbas.
As CODEPINK noted, following the PA’s arrest of journalist Ayman Qawasmeh, Issa wrote on Facebook: “Yes to freedom of opinion and expression. We are living in a quasi-state, and it must respect the freedom of opinion and expression, that’s what its international commitments require. It must defend freedom of opinion and expression.” (Qawasmeh was released on 6 September as Amro’s detention was extended.)
There is growing Palestinian and international outrage about the continued detention of Amro, who ended a hunger strike on Saturday afternoon, 9 September, after he was finally moved from a tiny cell that may have been a shower, allowed family visits and granted a change of clothing. Amro had reportedly been beaten by PA forces upon his arrest and had launched the hunger strike against the continued mistreatment and poor conditions.
Amro is currently facing 18 charges in an Israeli military court related to his popular activism with Youth Against Settlements, a grassroots group in al-Khalil that organizes against illegal Israeli settlements, land confiscation and settler violence in the occupied Palestinian city.
On Thursday, 7 September, Amro was charged with “disturbing the public order” under the new Electronic Crimes Law of the PA, denounced by Amnesty International and a wide array of Palestinian human rights organizations and political parties as an unprecedented attack on Palestinian freedom of speech and expression from a Palestinian entity. It is particularly damaging at a time when Palestinians under occupation are regularly subject to violent arrest raids, imprisonment and detention without charge or trial by the Israeli occupation for their social media posts.
Amro is the latest, and perhaps highest-profile target of the new law; previous detainees have included journalists and Palestinian youth activists critical of the PA. In fact, Amro himself was arrested after posting his critical commentary about the detention of Palestinian journalist Qawasmeh by the PA, shortly after he expressed frustration about the violent Israeli raid that shut down his radio station, Manbar al-Hurriyeh. In addition to the charges under the new law, Amro was also accused of “causing sectarian strife” and “insulting higher authorities” under the 1960 Jordanian penal code, two charges that have also been repeatedly used against PA political detainees, including journalists.
Amnesty International has denounced Amro’s arrest, while Youth Against Settlements has issued a call to action for people to urge PA representatives around the world to free Amro. CODEPINK has planned a demonstration in Washington, DC, to demand Amro’s freedom on 12 September; it is one of a number of international organizations that have already been mobilizing to defend Amro against the charges in Israeli military courts.
Nine members of U.S. Congress signed a letter to the PA urging Amro’s release; earlier, 32 members of Congress wrote a letter urging the State Department to act to urge that Israeli military court charges against Amro be dropped. The chair of the European Parliament’s commission on human rights also issued a statement urging Amro’s release. Amro has been an internationally prominent voice in the United Nations, European Union and elsewhere against the confiscation of the land and the rights of the Palestinian people of al-Khalil by the Israeli occupation settlement policy.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network joins Youth Against Settlements, Amnesty International and numerous others in demanding the immediate release of Issa Amro. We also call for the immediate release of all PA political detainees and an end to the “Electronic Crimes Law” and the ongoing attacks on Palestinian websites, journalists and activists. This law is particularly chilling in light of the ongoing Israeli targeting of Palestinian journalists, writers and organizers for expressing their opinion on social media and the context of PA security coordination with the Israeli occupation.
We also join our voices with Palestinian organizations and activists demanding an end to Palestinian Authority security coordination with the Israeli occupation.
- Sign the petition to support Issa Amro’s release: http://www.yashebron.org/free_issa_from_pa_arrest
- In the US? Take CODEPINK’s action for Issa Amro: http://codepink.org/issa
- CALL the PA and tell them to free Issa!
United States: General Delegation of the PLO to the US (202) 974-6360United Kingdom: Palestinian Mission +44 20 85 63 0008France: Mission of Palestine in France +33 1 48 28 6600Germany: Representative Office of Palestine in Berlin +49 30 20 61 77 0Italy: Embassy of Palestine in Italy +39 06 700 879Belgium: Palestinian Embassy in Brussels +32 2 735 24 78