Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority security forces broke up on Sunday a sit-in of three Palestinian parliamentarians protesting PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision last week to lift their parliamentary immunity, as well as that of two others.
Najat Abu Bakr, Shami al-Shami, and Jamal Tirawi, who are all critical of Abbas’s leadership and suspected of having ties to Abbas foe Muhammad Dahlan, had originally planned to hold a sit-in the Palestinian Authority parliament, but after security forces barred their entry, they relocated to the Red Cross building in el-Bireh.
“We were peacefully undertaking a sit-in in the Red Cross to protest the illegal and unjust decision to lift our immunity, but the security forces raided the building and forcibly removed us,” Abu Bakr told The Jerusalem Post in a phone call Monday morning, adding that the incident proves that basic freedoms of protest do not exist for citizens of the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas lifted the immunity of five parliamentarians last week: the three carrying out the sit-in, Dahlan, and Nasser Juma. This move paved the way for the PA public prosecutor to complete an investigation into allegations against them.
The PA Constitutional Court, which Abbas controversially formed in April, granted the 81-year-old Palestinian leader the power to lift parliamentarians’ immunity in early November.
Adnan al-Damiri, the PA security forces spokesman, said on Monday that the security forces broke up the sit-in to protect the Red Cross building.
“Any threat to this institution [the Red Cross], its employees or its property requires the intervention of responsible Palestinian parties... We were informed that [three] citizens were inside the Red Cross’s headquarters in el-Bireh without permission. Thus, the Palestinian police went to look into the matter and removed the [three citizens],” Damiri said, adding that the police entered the building unarmed.
However, Abu Bakr questioned the veracity of Damiri’s account, saying that “the people in Red Cross had no problem with our presence and welcomed [us] and offered us coffee and tea.”
A representative of the Red Cross in el-Bireh was not available for comment.
Abu Bakr added that she, Shami and Tirawi plan to carry out an open-ended hunger strike until their immunity is restored, but did not specify when it would start.
Hours after the security forces broke up the sit-in, armed youth from the Balata refugee camp, where Tirawi resides, set fire to tires on al-Quds street, the main thoroughfare adjacent to the camp.
“We are ready for anything; we are not scared of anything,” one of the youths said in a video posted on social media, in which he condemned “Abbas’s authority” for breaking up the sit-in.
Small protests also reportedly took place in the Jenin refugee camp, where Shami lives.