PA holding six Palestinian journalists without trial

Palestinian pol 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Palestinian pol 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have refused to release six Palestinian journalists who were detained in recent months on charges of "possession of weapons" and "membership in illegal organizations." Palestinian journalists who appealed to PA President Mahmoud Abbas on behalf of their detained colleagues were told that the "suspects" would remain in prison because they "posed a threat to the national interests of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people." The six journalists are Samer Khawireh, Ahmed Bikawi, Tarek Shihab, Iyad Srour, Farid Hammad and Bassam al-Sayeh. They are all being held without trial. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a West Bank-based body that is affiliated with the PA leadership, has refused to endorse the case of the six men under the pretext that they are Hamas supporters. A Palestinian journalist from Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that the PA's crackdown on the local media was aimed at intimidating Palestinian reporters and stopping them from reporting about financial corruption and human rights violations by Abbas's security forces. "The Palestinian media is under attack by the PA leadership in the West Bank," the journalist said. "Many [Palestinian] reporters are too scared to express their opinion because of the crackdown." Last week the PA security forces released from prison Isam Rimawi, a news photographer working for the PLO's official news agency, Wafa. Rimawi was arrested on January 26 by members of the much-feared Preventative Security Service in the West Bank on suspicion of possessing illegal weapons. He said that he was subjected to various forms of torture while being held in a prison cell in the Preventative Security Service's headquarters in the town of Betunia near Ramallah. He said his interrogators covered his head with a black bag with his hands bound behind his back for five days. He said he was also severely beaten during numerous sessions of interrogation.