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Hebron activist says he was arrested by PA over online criticism

Issa Amro, who has been tried in both Israeli and Palestinian courts, says he was accused of cybercrime for calling out alleged corruption in the Palestinian Authority

Palestinian activist Issa Amro arrives for a hearing at the Ofer military court on July 9, 2017, in the town of Betunia, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian activist Issa Amro arrives for a hearing at the Ofer military court on July 9, 2017, in the town of Betunia, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

A prominent Hebron activist said he was arrested on Monday night and held in jail over a Facebook post that accused the Palestinian Authority leadership of corruption.

Issa Amro, a community organizer from the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron, said he was summoned by Palestinian police for questioning. Amro said he was released — and then subsequently arrested again and detained overnight.

“I asked why they arrested a certain activist, rather than arresting those who are corrupt. Instead, they arrest those who oppose them,” Amro said in a phone call.

“They kept me in the police station under nasty conditions, not appropriate for people,” Amro added.

Amro said he was detained under the PA’s controversial 2018 cybercrimes law, which allows individuals to be arrested for “slandering” government institutions online. Human rights groups argue the PA has abused the practice to arbitrarily arrest its political opponents.

According to the Palestinian legal advocacy group Lawyers for Justice, at least 23 West Bank Palestinians were arrested by the PA for “political reasons” between May 2020 and May 2021.

The Palestinian Authority Public Prosecutor’s Office could not be reached for comment.

Amro is a longtime critic of both Israel and the PA who has faced charges in both Israeli and Palestinian courts. In 2017, Amro spent a week in prison for his criticism of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

He was also handed a three-month suspended sentence last year by an Israeli military judge, after being convicted of participating in demonstrations without a permit and assault, for pushing an Israeli civilian security guard.

The Hebron activist also recently met with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken during the diplomat’s visit to the West Bank as part of a group of Palestinian civil society leaders.

The Palestinian Authority’s support among Palestinians has slipped in recent months. In April, Abbas called off the first Palestinian elections in 16 years. Abbas’s Hamas rivals, by contrast, have risen in popularity in the West Bank.

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