Palestinians release activist jailed for Facebook post

Palestinian activist Issa Amro, center, speaks after his release from detention, in the West Bank city of Hebron, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. The Palestinian Authority has released Amro a week after he was arrested for writing a Facebook post criticizing the government of President Mahmoud Abbas. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
Updated 11 September 2017
0

Palestinians release activist jailed for Facebook post

HEBRON, West Bank: A Palestinian activist who has run afoul of both the Palestinian and Israeli authorities was released from a Palestinian jail Sunday, a week after he was arrested for writing a Facebook post critical of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Issa Amro, who says he pursues a path of non-violence against discriminatory Israeli policies and Jewish settlements in the West Bank city of Hebron, now faces the rare predicament of criminal proceedings in both an Israeli military court and a Palestinian court.
Amro was arrested on September 4 for writing a Facebook post criticizing the detention of a Palestinian journalist who was arrested for calling for President Mahmoud Abbas’s resignation.
His attorney said Sunday that Amro was released on $1,400 bail after being held under a recent edict that allows the government to crack down on social media critics. Farid Atrash said it was “shameful” that his client was arrested for exercising his right of free expression.
“They want to silence me and silence every voice defending human rights, but they are wrong. I will continue defending human rights and struggling against occupation,” he said following his release from jail on Sunday. He denied any wrongdoing.
In jail last week, Amro began a hunger strike to protest what he said was an unlawful detention, made without a warrant or due process.
Following his release, Amro said he was verbally and physically abused during his investigation by Palestinian security.
Though he has been freed from jail for now, Amro’s legal battles are only just starting.
Amro, a 35-year-old activist whose organization Youth Against Settlements protests against Israeli settlements in his hometown of Hebron, also faces charges at an Israeli military court for allegedly inciting violence and hindering soldiers during official duties. His trial is to resume in October.
Despite facing double-barrel legal battles for his political activities, Amro vows to press forward with what he says is a non-violent struggle.
“I know the law and never, ever violated it,” he said. “I never incited for violence, I never incited against any official. I call for human rights.”
Amro’s arrest by Palestinian security last week prompted rights groups to urge the Palestinian Authority to release him. Amnesty International condemned his arrest as “a shameless attack on freedom of expression.”
Last week nine members of US Congress penned a letter to Abbas asking him to “immediately drop the baseless charges and release” Amro, calling his detention “extremely concerning.”
In June, 32 members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to persuade Israeli authorities to drop charges against Amro. The lawmakers expressed concern that some of the allegations against him are “not internationally recognizable criminal offenses” and that the military court “will not render a fair and impartial verdict.”
In July, two United Nations human rights rapporteurs said the Israeli charges against him were “directed squarely at his lawful right to peacefully protest.”
Amro, like several other Palestinian journalists, was arrested and charged with disturbing public order under a recently passed Electronic Crimes Law, and “causing strife” under a 1960 Jordanian law. Human rights organizations have noted a spike in journalists arrested by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, particularly after the implementation of the vaguely worded decree in July.
The law enables the Palestinian Authority government to jail those who harm “national unity” or the “social fabric” online. Critics say the edict, issued without prior public debate, is perhaps the most significant step yet by Abbas’ government to restrict freedom of expression in the autonomous Palestinian enclaves of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Amnesty International reported that Palestinian Authority security services arrested at least six journalists in August and shut down dozens of websites in a major crackdown on free speech.


Iraqi forces launch anti-Daesh operation north of Baghdad

Updated 20 July 2019
0

Iraqi forces launch anti-Daesh operation north of Baghdad

  • The mainly Shiite PMF have been an effective force against Daesh
  • This is the second phase of the operation dubbed “Will to Victory”

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s military said Saturday its troops in partnership with security agencies and paramilitary forces launched the second phase of an operation aimed at clearing remnants of the Daesh group from north of Baghdad and surrounding areas.
This is the second phase of the operation dubbed “Will to Victory,” which started two weeks earlier and targeted the area along the border with Syria. The military said the new target area is north of Baghdad and in the Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces.
Although Iraq declared victory against Daesh in July 2017, the extremists have turned into an insurgency and continue to carry out deadly attacks in the country.
The military said Iraqi troops, Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, the federal police and others are taking part in the operation supported by the Iraqis and the U.S-led international coalition.
On Saturday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi visited the operation room alongside the deputy head of the PMF, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.
Earlier this month, the Iraqi government moved to place the Iranian-backed militias under the command of the armed forces. The move was believed to be an attempt to curb the powerful militias, particularly amid rising tension between Iran and the US, the power brokers in Iraq.
The mainly Shiite PMF have been an effective force against Daesh and are a significant political force, with government ministers and 48 seats in the 329-member parliament.