Palestinian Authority releases jailed activist on bail as crackdown persists
A leading Palestinian human rights activist was released from jail on Sunday, after he was arrested last week for criticising a crackdown on freedom of expression by Palestinian Authority security officials.
Issa Amro - head of Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements activist group - was detained on 4 September after speaking out against the arrest of journalists by Palestinian security forces and calling for the resignation of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, whose presidency expired in 2009.
After his release, Amro accused the PA security forces physically and verbally abusing him during his five-day imprisonment.
"They want to silence me and the voice of every other human rights defender, but they are wrong if they think they can. I will continue defending human rights and struggling against occupation," he said.
Amro was released on bail.
An "electronic crime" law was ratified by the PA in July, cracking down on online dissent in the occupied territories, where social media is a popular platform for debate.
Anyone who is seen "disturbing social harmony" on social media faces being sentenced to 15 years of hard labour. The decree was ratified by Abbas and caused public outrage as it was reportedly issued without public debate.
Palestinians mainly saw it as a serious restriction on freedom of speech.
Ammar Dweik, head of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, said the new law is "one of the worst" since the Palestinian autonomy government was established in 1994.
He says the vague definition of "social harmony" makes cracking down on activists and journalists all the easier, adding the law was "a big setback to the freedoms in the West Bank".