Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority Preventative Security arrested Ayman Qawasmeh, the chairman of the Minbar al-Huriyya radio station, in Hebron late Sunday evening, a senior PA security official said on Monday.
Qawasmeh’s arrest came some three days after he made disparaging comments of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
In a fit of frustration, Qawasmeh on Thursday called on Abbas and Hamdallah to resign after the IDF raided his radio station in Hebron and confiscated equipment, accusing them of failing to protect PA -controlled areas in the West Bank. An IDF spokeswoman said security services raided the radio station because it was inciting violence, a charge that Qawasmeh has denied.
“I call on PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the prime minister to submit their resignations and not to remain in their positions,” Qawasmeh said in a video that was widely shared on social media.
“[To] he who cannot protect his institutions and people, I say to them, sit in your house.”The PA is technically in charge of security inside major West Bank cities
like Hebron, but the IDF frequently enters them to carry out arrests and confiscate equipment.
A senior official in the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate who is following Qawasmeh’s case said that Qawasmeh was arrested because of the remarks he made about Abbas and Hamdallah
while technically serving as a member of the PA security services.
According to a member of Qawasmeh’s family, the radio station chairman served for a number of years in the PA security services, but resigned before municipal elections took place last May.
“He resigned on August 26, 2016 to run in the elections,” the family member, who requested anonymity, said. “So there is no justification for arresting him.”
The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate official confirmed that Qawasmeh had submitted a resignation letter, but said that his resignation had not yet been formally accepted by the relevant PA officials.
“It doesn’t matter to me what job someone has,” the Journalists’ Syndicate official said. “He should be able to express his opinion and criticize anyone.”
Members of the PA security forces, similar to many other security services around the world, are not allowed to take public positions on political issues.
However, Hisham Sharabati, a political analyst and activist in the West Bank, said that the PA only upholds that standard when it pertains to itself or Fatah, the West Bank’s ruling party.
“I have heard Ayman Qawasmeh criticize Hamas and the Popular Front [for the Liberation of Palestine] many times on the radio,” Sharabati said. “So why did the PA arrest him only after he made his recent statements about Abbas and Hamdallah? Where were they when he made the statements about Hamas and the PFLP?”