Palestinian judiciary and executive clash after arrest in Nablus court

A Palestinian protester carries a burning tire during clashes with Israeli forces following a demonstration on Friday against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Palestinian judiciary and executive clash after arrest in Nablus court

AMMAN: A constitutional crisis between the executive and judicial branches of government is developing in the Palestinian territories after the violent arrest of a lawyer inside a Nablus court this week.
Palestinian intelligence service officers dressed in civilian clothing broke into the Nablus Court of First Instance at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, arrested advocate Mohammed Hussein and beat him in front of lawyers, judges and the court police.
The government claims that the arrest was made outside the court.
Advocate Azzam Hashlamon, legal adviser to the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, told Arab News that video evidence showed that the arrest was made inside the courthouse. “This is a clear violation of the independence of the judiciary and the principles of the rule of law.”
The arrest followed a protest march last week in the village of Deir Al-Hatab in the Nablus district against plans to build a sewage treatment plant within the village’s boundaries. Protesters are accused of damaging public property.
Advocate Hussein, representing the village council, had submitted a suit against the building of the plant.
The government of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah accused the lawyer of inciting against the plant.
Hashlamon told Arab News that the plant will be funded with a grant of $40 million from the German government.
Hussein was taken to a prison in Jericho but the Bar Association, along with other civil society organizations, called on fellow lawyers to a protest outside the offices of the prime minister in Ramallah on Thursday. The Judicial Council, the attorney general’s office and the consortium of human rights organizations all issued statements condemning the extra-judicial actions inside the court house.
Izzat Ramini, a judge from Nablus who participated in the protest on Thursday, called on President Mahmoud Abbas to intervene. “The court’s jurisdiction was violated and a lawyer’s rights were trampled on, this is a violation of the basic law,” he said to a crowd of jurists made up of lawyers, judges, staff from the attorney general’s office and human rights activists.
Aziz Abu Hamad, deputy attorney general, said that the attack violated the independence of the judiciary. “We call on President Abbas to set up an investigation committee to hold those responsible to account.”
Bassam Salhi, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, also stated his support for the judiciary.
Majed Arruri, a legal affairs expert based in Ramallah, told Arab News that what had happened was a clear breach of the rule of law. “It is a retraction of the rule of law and represents the priority of security control in the absence of the law.”
The head of the Palestinian Bar Association, Jawwad Obeidat, who had helped to organize the protest, called for the resignation of the prime minister, saying that he made the order acting as minister of the interior.
Obeidat said that the attorney general had decided at 10:30 on Wednesday morning not to detain the accused lawyer because the charge against him was not serious. The judge let him continue his work at the courthouse in Nablus, Obeidat told the protesters and the attending press.
“One hour later civilian-dressed security barged in to the courthouse and beat and arrested our colleague.”
The Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq issued a statement corroborating what the head of the Bar Association had said — that the arrest and beatings took place inside the courthouse.
Obeidat said that what had happened was a crime against the entire judicial system: Lawyers, judges and the attorney general’s office.
“We call on Maj. Gen. Hazem Atallah, the director general of the Palestinian police, to open an investigation into the failure of the judicial police to protect everyone inside the walls of the courthouse.”
Following the jurist protests, Mohammed Mansour, the director general of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, issued a statement saying that “the independence of the legal branch is guaranteed” and that the prime minister has ordered an investigation into the accusations.
He said “that the role of the judiciary and the court sanctity must be respected.”


Turkey, US at odds again over Ankara’s ouster from F-35 program

Updated 27 min 3 sec ago
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Turkey, US at odds again over Ankara’s ouster from F-35 program

  • ‘F-35 fighter jet program cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform’

ANKARA: The US announced it was formally removing Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program on Wednesday, following the delivery of the first part of a Russian S-400 missile defense system to Ankara. 

“F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” the Pentagon said in a statement, adding that the removal would be completed by March 2020. 

Ankara, which has been cultivating closer ties with Moscow on defense procurement, had invested in the F-35 program, with Turkish defense companies producing 937 parts of the plane, and 100 of the jets expected to be bought by the Turkish military.

To fill the vacuum created by Turkey’s removal from the program, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced that Russia was ready to sell combat aircraft to Ankara. 

Dr. Can Kasapoglu, a defense analyst at the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy, an Istanbul-based think tank, said the F-35 and the S-400 were mutually exclusive defense acquisitions, not only technically but also politically, and that this had been a very well-known fact for a long time. 

“Militarily, it means that Turkey is cut off from a state-of-the-art fifth generation combat aircraft project that fits perfectly for network-centric warfare and gaining information superiority in the complex battle spaces of the 21st century,” he told Arab News.

“Although many in Turkey talk about ‘alternatives’ like the Russian Su-57, for now, there is no tangible ground for any co-production or tech-transfer ventures. Besides, the F-35 is an air-superiority asset and a situational awareness node. The Russian military aviation prioritizes very different features such as super-maneuverability and kinematic edge. These are completely distinct design philosophies.”

There are now questions over whether or not Washington will bring Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA ) sanctions against Turkey over its decision to purchase the Russian missile system.

“One should grasp the content of the CAATSA sanctions spectrum. There are some harmless articles such as cutting off the sanctioned entities from US export-import loans. Yet, if the US opted for following the Chinese precedent, namely sanctioning Turkey’s main procurement body, then Turkey could face hard times in its defense transactions,” Kasapoglu said. 

US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense David J. Trachtenberg told reporters at the Pentagon: “The US greatly values our strategic relationship with Turkey — that remains unchanged.

“As long-standing NATO allies, our relationship is multilayered and extends well beyond the F-35 partnership. We will continue our extensive cooperation with Turkey across the entire spectrum of our relationship.”

However, for Kasapoglu, it is a lose-lose situation for Turkish-US ties, while the ultimate geopolitical victor is Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“He knows what he is doing, and there is no match for the Kremlin’s strategic calculus in the West. It is another unfortunate cold fact for the transatlantic strategic community. The S-400 has managed to do this without firing one single interceptor,” he said. 

Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, thinks the negative repercussions of the S-400 have only just started and that the US-Turkish relationship may worsen. 

“Even with the F-35, CAATSA looms, and it is almost certain sanctions will be implemented,” he told Arab News. 

“Turkey has lost the aircraft it intended to build its future air force around. There is no real way Ankara can address this issue, other than to try and finish building its own fighter, a tremendously expensive endeavor dependent on foreign engines, or purchase aircraft from Moscow.”

In a press release the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated: “This unilateral step contradicts the spirit of alliance and does not rely on any legitimate justification,” and criticized Washington for leaving unanswered its proposal to form a working group on the issue.