Palestinian members of a youth group wave their national flags and hold posters depicting portraits of Palestinian prisoners during a protest in solidarity with them..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The families of six detainees in the Palestinian Authority’s Beitunya prison organized a demonstration on Saturday in front of the Mukata, the headquarters of the PA in Ramallah, calling for the immediate release of their family members.
In April, the PA General Intelligence Services arrested Basil al-Araj, Haytham Siaj and Muhammed Harb in the hills near a village outside of Ramallah for allegedly planning an attack against Israelis. According to the PA security forces, the three young men had been armed with a makeshift gun and hand grenades.
In the following days, the PA security forces arrested Muhammed Elsalameen, Saif al-Idrissi and Ali Dar al-Sheikh in Ramallah for their suspected involvement.
However, the PA prosecutor general Ahmad Barak has yet to indict any of the six young men, who announced a hunger strike on August 28. Meanwhile, a Palestinian court has extended their remand three times.
Palestinians, including many PA officials, have long criticized Israel for detaining suspects for extended periods of time without issuing an indictment.
At the demonstration, the detainees’ families and dozens of additional protesters held up posters featuring pictures of the six detainees and slogans such as “Freedom for the kidnapped” and “Release the political prisoners immediately.” Videos on social media showed a band of PA security forces standing nearby armed with riot shields.
“They will eventually be free” and “Oppressive rule will not prevail,” the protesters chanted.
“Security cooperation is shameful; You’re putting the revolutionaries in prison.”
In a statement on Wednesday, the Council of Palestinian Human Rights Organizations called on the PA to take measures to ensure justice for the six detainees.
“The Council of Palestinian Human Rights Organizations calls on the PA to ensure a fair trial and proper treatment in accordance with local and international law for the six hunger-striking detainees,” the statement read.
The statement added that Muhannid Karaja, the lawyer representing the six detainees, discovered that the PA security forces transferred his clients into isolation after announcing their hunger strike.
Karaja told The Jerusalem Post
that the PA has thus far not provided the detainees with their legal rights.
“The PA has not upheld the legal principle of ‘no punishment until proven guilty’ in this case,” he said. “The PA legally cannot arrest them for five months on the pretext that it has to complete an investigation; it should have released them a week after their arrest.”
Karaja also called on the PA to post bail for the detainees.
“The PA should post bail for the detainees, especially since two of them, Araj and Idrissi, are suffering from health complications,” he added.
PA security forces spokesman Adnan al-Damiri confirmed on Sunday that the six detainees are at the Beitunya prison, but refused to comment on the specifics of the case.
The PA prosecutor-general’s office did not respond to requests from the Post for comment.
Grant Rumley, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, told the Post that the PA could be dragging its feet on the indictment for several reasons.
“One is the sensitive nature of the accusations – the PA arresting Palestinians plotting attacks on Israel is controversial with a public already critical of security cooperation,” he said.
“The second reason is simply that the evidence might not be there, and that this is part of the PA ’s attempt to get criminals off the street in its iron fist policy.”
This protest marks the second anti-PA protest in the past week. Last Sunday, thousands turned a funeral in Nablus into a protest against the PA .
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