Silwan civic leader detained

Co-workers call assault allegations "gross fabrication."

By MELANIE LIDMAN
January 6, 2011 04:35
2 minute read.
Silwan neighborhood planned for demolition

Silwan 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Jawad Siyam, the director of a community center in east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood and a prominent international activist, was detained by police on Tuesday and will remain in custody until at least Friday, his co-workers told The Jerusalem Post.

Police detained Siyam after a Silwan resident complained that Siyam had attacked him, Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby told the Post on Wednesday.

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Siyam’s co-workers called the allegation a “gross fabrication” and said he is taken-in for questioning about every four or five months, and usually stays in detention for a few days at a time.

Siyam is one of the more prominent activists in Silwan, appearing on major international news networks, including on CBS’s 60 Minutes, to provide the Arab residents’ point of view on the contested area around the archeological sites of the City of David. He is regularly in touch with European leaders, and representatives of the European Union were at a hearing on Wednesday when the court extended his detention until Friday, his co-workers said.

A social worker trained in Germany and Turkey, Siyam is a cofounder of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center and the Madaa Community Center.

Founded in 2007, the only community center in Silwan has grown from serving 35 children to providing 450 children with a variety of programming and hosting theater groups, a computer center and a library.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center is a controversial website that provides updates about Silwan to an international audience in English.

The information center, whose reports have a decidedly anti-Israel slant, operates out of a Beduin-style tent in front of the community center and has many of the same employees as the community center. The site is about 150 meters down the street from the entrance to the City of David archeological park and is supposed to serve as an alternative information and tourism center for the area.

Madaa, which means “horizon” in Arabic, is supported by donations for European organizations, and does not accept money from the government, the Palestinian Authority or the European Union.

Siyam was arrested in front of 15 children during a class on Tuesday in the community center, said Muna Hasan, the public relations coordinator for the Wadi Hilweh Information Center.

Three policemen burst into the classroom, she said.

Siyam’s arrest comes after a restraining order against another prominent activist in Silwan, Adnan Geith, who will have to leave Jerusalem for four months starting next Wednesday after the IDF Home Front Command served him with a restraining order in November.


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