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(photo credit: Channel 10 [file])
In an unprecedented move, the Palestinian Authority prosecutor-general on Monday issued an arrest warrant against the chairman of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Naim Toubassi, on charges of financial corruption and slander.
The decision to arrest Toubassi, a veteran pro-Fatah journalist and editor, triggered protests from dozens of Palestinian journalists who staged a demonstration outside the PA government offices in Ramallah.
The prosecutor-general, Ahmed Mughni, said that the arrest warrant was issued because of Toubassi's refusal to show up for questioning.
Mughni said that Toubassi was facing charges of embezzlement, slander and fraud. He said that the board of directors of the syndicate had made the allegations of embezzlement, while newspaper editor Hafez Barghouti had filed a complaint accusing the chairman of slander.
He added that Toubassi was also wanted for interrogation regarding a complaint by a Ramallah resident who said he never received payment for a plot of land he had sold to the syndicate.
Mughni told the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency that Toubassi had ignored a number of requests to show up for questioning.
Toubassi accused the PA security forces of raiding his home several times in the past 48 hours. The raids were a "grave precedent against Palestinian journalists," he said.
The decision to arrest Toubassi came amid growing calls to hold new elections for the syndicate. Palestinian journalists said that Toubassi has long been the target of a "smear campaign" aimed at discrediting him, to prevent his reelection as chairman of the syndicate.