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.


Troops halt Lebanese ‘revolution bus’ over security concerns

Lebanese anti-government protesters flash victory signs as they head to the south of Lebanon on a 'revolution' bus from central Beirut on November 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 17 November 2019

Troops halt Lebanese ‘revolution bus’ over security concerns

  • The protest convoy is aiming to reach Nabatieh and Tyre, two cities that have challenged Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in southern Lebanon during weeks of unrest

BEIRUT: A Lebanese “revolution bus” traveling from north to south to unite protesters was halted by troops outside the city of Sidon on Saturday.
The army set up a road block to prevent the bus and a large protest convoy entering Sidon, the third-largest city in the country.
Local media said that the decision had been made to defuse tensions in the area following widespread protests.
Lebanese troops blocked the Beirut-South highway at the Jiyeh-Rumailah checkpoint over “security concerns,” a military source told Arab News.
“Some people in Sidon objected to the crossing of the bus and we feared that problems may take place,” the source added.
A protester in Ilya Square in Sidon said: “Those who do not want the bus to enter Sidon should simply leave the square because there are many who want to welcome the bus.”
The army allowed the bus to enter the town of Rumailah, 2 km from Sidon. “The bus will stop here after nightfall because of security fears and the risk of an accident,” the military source said.
The protest convoy is aiming to reach Nabatieh and Tyre, two cities that have challenged Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in southern Lebanon during weeks of unrest.
Activists said the protest bus “is spreading the idea of a peaceful revolution by unifying the people.”
“The pain is the same from the far north of Lebanon to the south and the only flag raised is the Lebanese flag,” one activist said.
Organizers of the protest convoy rejected claims that the cities of Sidon, Nabatieh and Tyre were reluctant to welcome the bus, and voiced their respect for the Lebanese army decision.

After leaving Akkar the bus passed through squares that witnessed protests in Tripoli, Batroun, Jbeil, Zouk Mosbeh, Jal El Dib and Beirut. Protesters chanted “Revolution” and lined the route of the convoy, turning it into a “procession of the revolution.”
The bus paused in Khalde, where the first victim of the protests, Alaa Abu Fakhr, was shot and killed a few days ago by a Lebanese soldier. The victim’s widow and family welcomed the convoy and protesters laid wreaths at the site of the shooting.
Activists’ tweets on Saturday claimed that life in Beirut’s southern suburbs is as difficult as in other areas of Lebanon.
“As a Shiite girl living in the heart of the southern suburbs, I deny that we are living well and not suffering. We are in a worse position than the rest of the regions,” said an activist who called herself Ruanovsky.
“No one is doing well,” said Wissam Abdallah. “The suburbs have external security and safety, but unfortunately there is a lot of corruption. There are forged car van plates, motorcycle mafia, Internet and satellite mafia, royalties mafia, and hashish and drugs mafia. Municipalities have to deal with these things as soon as possible.”