Security forces of the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday forcibly broke up the press conference held at the headquarters of the Popular Alliance for Change in Ramallah, which calls for reform of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
Eyewitnesses and journalists told The New Arab that the security forces brandished their weapons and carried big sticks while expelling the participants and prevented journalists from documenting the event, as well as detained a number of them.
Jihad Barakat, a Ramallah-based journalist complained that the security forces violated their rights and dealt with them by threatening, saying, "They took my national identity and expelled me out the place … later, they returned it to me and asked me to leave the area to avoid the arrest."
Following the storming, the organisers of the conference, a coalition of Palestinian political and civil society activists, tried to hold the conference out of the headquarters, but the security forces prevented them too.
The Palestinian People's Congress demands the holding of National Council elections that include all Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, the besieged Gaza Strip, Palestinians within 1948 borders, the diaspora and the reform of the PLO.
The Ramallah-based "Lawyers for Justice" group condemned the storming by PA's security forces on the conference, and expelling its participants, in violation of freedom of opinion, expression, and peaceful assembly.
In a press statement sent to TNA, the group said, "The conference is one of the peaceful means of expressing an opinion, and that attacking it violates the Palestinian article 19, which said that freedom of opinion may not be prejudiced, as well as violates the international agreements to which Palestine is a party."
"We believed that forcing journalists to close their cameras is added to the violations committed against the journalistic practice in Palestine, for which the Palestinian constitution provides freedom of journalistic work without restriction," the statement said.
The Lawyers for Justice group expressed its fear of the continuation of scenes of repression and restrictions on public freedoms, as well as freedom of opinion amid the significant increase in the arrest operations carried out by the PA's security forces.
On Saturday, the conference concluded a series of public meetings organized over two days in several Palestinian cities and in neighbouring countries. The meeting cancelled its meetings in Ramallah following pressure from the PA.
"In total, more than 1,500 Palestinians participated in the conference in Palestine and abroad," Omar Assaf, a leading member of the conference, said to TNA on Sunday.
Assaf was detained for several hours on Saturday, in what he called "an intimidation attempt."
"The Ramallah municipality was pressured into not allowing us to hold the meetings on its premises," said Assaf.