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

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.


Iranian hard-liners in parliament reject president’s nominee

Updated 34 min 27 sec ago

Iranian hard-liners in parliament reject president’s nominee

  • According to the parliament’s website, lawmakers rejected Hossein Modares Khiabani’s nomination for minister of trade and industries
  • Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said the vote was 140-104 against the nominee

TEHRAN, Iran: Iranian hard-liners in parliament on Wednesday voted against President Hassan Rouhani’s nominee for trade minister in the first showdown between the rival camps since the house resumed work in May despite the struggles to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the parliament’s website, lawmakers rejected Hossein Modares Khiabani’s nomination for minister of trade and industries.
Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said the vote was 140-104 against the nominee. There were 254 lawmakers at the session and 10 abstained. The parliament has 290 seats.
The vote marked the first serious confrontation between the newly elected house, dominated by conservatives and the bloc of supporters of the relatively moderate Rouhani. Under the law, Rouhani must introduce new nominees to his Cabinet in the next three months.
Rouhani in May dismissed the trade and industry minister at the time, Reza Rahmani, as Iran faced an unprecedented economic downturn amid intense pressure from the United States after President Donald Trump pulled America out of Iran’s nuclear with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the country. Khiabani, 52, had since been the acting trade minister.
Iran is also grappling with the largest and deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus in the Middle East, with more than 331,000 confirmed cases and at least 18,800 deaths.