After 36 days, Palestinian blogger freed from jail

Jamal Abu Rihan was originally arrested for criticizing PA corruption, says interrogation focused on his Facebook activities.

PA police in training demonstration in Ramallah 370 (R) (photo credit: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)
PA police in training demonstration in Ramallah 370 (R)
(photo credit: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)
Jamal Abu Rihan, a Palestinian blogger who spent 36 days in a Palestinian Authority prison in the West Bank for demanding an end to corruption, said Saturday that his interrogation focused mostly on his activities on Facebook.
Released last week, Abu Rihan was arrested as part of a PA crackdown on journalists, bloggers and Facebook users who reported about corruption or criticized Palestinian leaders.
He was detained on instructions from the PA attorney-general, Ahmed al-Mughni, after creating a Facebook group called “The people want to end corruption.”
The term was inspired by the Arab Spring, where anti-government protesters have been chanting, “The people want regime change.”
Abu Rihan said he decided to set up the Facebook group “to combat and end rampant corruption, which has harmed the social and national interests of the Palestinian people.”
He said there had been no reason for him to remain in detention for more than a month because he had been accused only of a misdemeanor, something that usually results in release on bail after one or two days.
“Most of the questions centered around my activity with the Facebook group,” Abu Rihan told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.
“This confirms that I was arrested only because of my being a blogger.”
He said he had never named any Palestinian official in connection with corruption.
“I was writing about the phenomenon of corruption,” he added. “I did not accuse anyone of being corrupt.”
Freedom of expression under the PA is limited, something that can be seen in the arrest of journalists, bloggers and critics, and the blocking of some websites and TV programs, Abu Rihan said.