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PA arrests journalist for reporting on Fatah leaflet

June 3, 2013 18:50

Security forces arrest Palestinian journalist George Canawati for reporting on leaflet distributed by Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

A masked militant from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of the Fatah movement in Hebron, August 3, 2008.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades 370. (photo credit:REUTERS/Nayef Hashlamoun )

Palestinian Authority security forces on Monday arrested Palestinian journalist George Canawati, director of Bethlehem Radio 2000, for reporting about a leaflet distributed by Fatah’s armed wing, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

The PA prosecutor-general ordered the arrest of Canawati for 48 hours.

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Canawati is accused of reporting on his radio station about the leaflet, which attacked Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun, and called for her resignation.

The leaflet was distributed in Bethlehem following allegations that Baboun, the first female mayor of the city, had banned Palestinian girls from reciting a poem that included the phrase, “Islam is our religion.”

Baboun, who was elected last late last year as mayor, was also accused of banning girls from performing at a local event while wearing the hijab.

Although Baboun has denied the allegations, saying they were part of a smear campaign aimed at defaming her, many Muslim residents staged protests in Bethlehem, calling for her resignation.

Fatah later denied any link to the leaflet, saying it was a fabrication.

The campaign against Baboun reached its peak two weeks ago when unidentified assailants vandalized her car.

The mayor filed a complaint with the PA authorities against those who were inciting against her.

PA security forces detained four suspects, including municipal council member Maher Canawati, who is related to the journalist who was arrested on Monday.

The arrest of the journalist drew sharp criticism from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the West Bank, which demanded his immediate release.

Hassan Abdel Jawwad, a senior member of the syndicate, said that Canawati was arrested only because of his journalistic work. He said that the arrest was in violation of an agreement between the PA and the syndicate, according to which a journalist would be arrested only if convicted of a crime or on order of a judge.

The journalist’s lawyer, Osama Abu Zakyeh, said that his client was arrested only for reporting about the Fatah leaflet. He said that his Canawati has refused to reveal the identity of the party that delivered the leaflet to the radio station.

This was not the first time that Canawati had been arrested by the PA security forces. In 2010, he was arrested for five days by the PA’s General Intelligence Service for reporting about internal tensions inside Fatah.
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