(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian authorities blocked a PA lawmaker critical of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from traveling abroad.
Najat Abu Bakr, who represents Nablus in the Palestinian Legislative Council, the PA parliament, attempted to travel to Lebanon via Jordan Wednesday morning to receive an award, but PA officials denied her an exit permit.
“I arrived at the border crossing in Jericho around 10 a.m. and presented my passport to a border crossing official, who took it for what seemed like a routine review, but five minutes later he returned it to me and said I am barred from traveling,” Abu Bakr said in a telephone call Thursday morning.
Most Palestinians travel through PA border control in Jericho before continuing to Israeli and Jordanian border control.
After learning her exit had been denied, Abu Bakr asked who had made the decision to block her from traveling abroad.
“High-ranking parties,” the border official responded, according to Abu Bakr.
The Palestinian lawmaker attempted to inquire further, but the border official refused to answer her questions.
Palestinian lawyer Muhannad Karaja said that the only parties with the authority to block Abu Bakr from traveling are the PA Attorney-General Ahmad Barak or the Palestinian courts.
“The attorney-general can individually decide to bar someone from traveling, or a court can, in response to a request from the attorney-general or a branch of the security apparatus,” Karaja said.
Barak declined to respond to inquiries regarding the decision to bar Abu Bakr from traveling abroad.
Abu Bakr is one of five lawmakers who had their parliamentary immunity revoked by Abbas in December, as a part of investigation into corruption allegations.
While PA officials hold that Abu Bakr and the other lawmakers violated the law, committing offenses such as those related to weapons trade, human rights groups and other Palestinian lawmakers maintain that Abbas lifted their immunity in an attempt to purge political opponents.
Abu Bakr said that blocking her from traveling is a part of an unjust attempt by the PA leadership to undermine the legislature.
“It is clear that the executive branch is trying to assert its authority over the legislative branch,” Abu Bakr said. “It is as if the executive branch controls the entire system.”
PA lawmakers are responsible for overseeing Abbas’s decisions, but since he suspended the activity of the legislature in 2007, lawmakers have been largely unable to play such a role.
Jamal Tirawi, another lawmaker critical of Abbas, said that blocking Abu Bakr from traveling abroad demonstrates the anti-democratic reality in the West Bank.
“This decision constitutes a total disregard for the democratic process and its methods,” Tirawi said in a phone call.
Abu Bakr intends to bring her case to a Palestinian court in the coming days, challenging the PA’s decision to bar her from traveling and strip her of parliamentary immunity.