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The publisher of a Palestinian newspaper that was closed down by the Palestinian Authority about three years ago said over the weekend that he was planning to sue the PA for damages.
The Hebron-based bi-weekly Akbar al-Khalil [News of Hebron], which was founded in 1999, was last week given permission by the PA to resume publication.
The newspaper was shut down in 2002 after it had published a series of articles criticizing Yasser Arafat and the Oasis Casino in Jericho.
Akbar al-Khalil is affiliated with Hamas, and its closure was then seen in the context of US and Israeli pressure on the PA to crack down on the Islamic movement. The newspaper was one of several Hamas-linked institutions that were closed down in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the time.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas decided last week to rescind the decision and allow the newspaper to reappear. The move is regarded as an attempt to mollify Hamas on the eve of the resumption of talks in Cairo between the PA and all Palestinian factions on the possibility of extending the unofficial truce with Israel.
Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman is expected to arrive in Ramallah on Monday for talks with Abbas on the resumption of the "national dialogue" in Cairo next week. All the Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have agreed to send representatives to the discussions, which will be held at a secret location. The factions have also agreed, in principle, to the extension of the truce with Israel.
After the closure of Akbar al-Khalil, its publisher, Walid Suleiman, was forced to sell sweets on the streets of Hebron to support his family. Earlier this year he was caught driving an unlicensed vehicle that was confiscated by the PA.
Last week the newspaper hit the stands once again. Expressing hope that the PA won't close down the newspaper again, Suleiman said he was planning to demand compensations for losses he had suffered during the three-year ban.
Suleiman has been detained at least twice by the PA's General Intelligence Force for "inciting" against the PA leadership and Arafat. In one case he was taken into custody after he wrote an editorial slamming the PA for "relinquishing" the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
One of the interrogators threatened to "burn down" Suleiman's newspaper if he continued to criticize the PA. The threat was made after the newspaper criticized the opening of the casino in Jericho.
In another case, Suleiman was detained by PA security officers after his live appearance on the Gulf-based satellite news station Al-Shareqah. During the program, he criticized the PA for rampant corruption and for pursuing a peace settlement with Israel. He also called for the release of imprisoned Hamas activists from PA jails.
Suleiman was questioned and forced to sign a pledge affirming that he would abide by PA laws. He was released after 30 hours in custody. When the publisher claimed that he was acting in the framework of the freedom of the media, the interrogators scoffed at him: "Where do you think you are, in Switzerland?"
The newspaper had served as a platform for Hamas leaders and activists. Slain Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi had a regular column, and Malek Nasser Eddin, the sports editor who was killed by the IDF two years ago, was responsible for a series of suicide bombings in Israel.