Amnesty urges Hamas to drop trial against Al-Araby TV journalist
A Palestinian journalist who exposed endemic corruption inside the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza Strip for Al-Araby TV may face up to six months in jail, Amnesty International warned on Monday.
Hajar Harb will appear in a Gaza court for an appeal hearing on Tuesday, after she was charged with a series of offences, including defamation and publication of false news.
She was tried in absentia in June 2017 - while she was in Jordan receiving treatment for breast cancer - and sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of 1,000 ILS [276 USD].
Her prosecution is an "outrageous assault on media freedom", Amnesty's deputy MENA Director Saleh Higazi said in a statement.
"The authorities in Gaza are blatantly seeking to punish her for exposing corruption within the Hamas administration. The authorities must drop all the charges against her immediately," Higazi said.
It is deeply alarming that Hajar Harb is facing six months in jail simply for doing her job
- Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International's deputy Middle East and North Africa director
"It is deeply alarming that Hajar Harb is facing six months in jail simply for doing her job. If her conviction on trumped up charges is upheld it would have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Gaza."
Harb's investigation was aired by London-based Al-Araby TV in June 2016.
It revealed that Gaza's health ministry, which is run by the Hamas de-factor administration, was profiting by arranging illegal medical transfers out of the Gaza Strip for people who did not need treatment.
Following the broadcast, Harb was held by police for questioning at least four times between June and July 2016.
The interrogation sessions lasted up to four hours, during which she was subjected to verbal abuse and threatened.
"[I] was treated as a criminal not a journalist [who] made an investigative report that is very important to this country," Harb told Amnesty.
"I sometimes question myself and say, what have I done? I'm paying the price of doing an investigative piece about corruption in Gaza. How is this fair?" Harb said.
Crackdown on Palestinian freedom of expression escalated dangerously in recent months.
Amnesty International has previously criticised both Gaza-based Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority [PA] in the West Bank for their clampdown on dissent.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 in a near civil war with Fatah.
Both Hamas and the PA continue to crackdown on human rights and press freedoms in areas under their control.
With the increase in arrests against dissent in the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians continue to suffer not just at the hands of the Israeli occupation, but also by the rival authorities.
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