Abbas orders release of scholar nabbed by PA security

Professor Abdel Sattar Qassem, who teaches political science, was arrested after he wrote an article criticizing the administration of An-Najah University.

Abbas 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)
Abbas 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday ordered the release of prominent Professor Abdel Sattar Qassem, of An-Najah University in Nablus, who was arrested last week by PA security forces.
Qassem was released from prison at around 1:00 a.m., following a “presidential decree” issued by Abbas.
The article that led to his arrest criticized the university administration for failing to comply with a court order to rescind a decision to expel a number of students. The university has since fired him, although he had been employed for more than three decades.
Qassem, who teaches political science, was arrested after he wrote an article criticizing the administration of An-Najah University.
Over the weekend, a PA court in Nablus remanded him into custody for 15 days on charges of “defaming” the university administration and its president, Rami Hamdallah.
A source in Abbas’s office said that the PA president was “surprised” to hear about the arrest of Qassem and immediately issued his instructions to the PA security forces to release him.
The source said that the case should have been dealt with inside the university and not through the police or the prosecutor- general’s office.
“This appears to be a personal dispute between Qassem and the university president,” the source told The Jerusalem Post. “We still don’t know how the professor ended up in prison.”
But in a surprise move, the PA Prosecutor-General, Ahmed al- Mughni, who was behind the arrest of the professor, denied that Abbas had ordered his release.
Al-Mughni said that Qassem was released on bail by a PA court.
However, he did not offer an explanation as to why Qassem was released after midnight shortly after Abbas issued his decree.
“The president does not interfere in judicial matters,” the prosecutor- general said, ignoring the fact that Abbas had issued a public decree ordering the release of the professor.
Qassem, a former presidential candidate, is a well-known critic of the PA leadership, and in the past he was the target of an assassination attempt after he criticized Yasser Arafat. He was also arrested a number of times in the past by the PA security forces and at one point his car was torched outside his home.
Also Monday, Abbas ordered the release of some 40 prisoners and detainees on the occasion of the Muslim feast of Id al-Fitr, which begins on Tuesday.
Palestinian sources said that all the prisoners and detainees were being held on suspicion of membership in Hamas.
In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas government released 10 Fatah detainees to mark the same occasion.