PA releases 8 university staffers accused of Hamas ties

Attempt by detainees to establish new university in West Bank seen as part of effort to expand Hamas’s influence beyond Gaza.

hamas man 311 (photo credit: AP)
hamas man 311
(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday ordered the release of seven university lecturers and an administrative worker who were arrested last week for allegedly being affiliated with Hamas and trying to establish a new university in the West Bank.
The eight, all employed by An-Najah University in Nablus, the largest Palestinian university, were arrested as part of a massive clampdown by the Fatah dominated PA security forces against Hamas supporters in the West Bank.
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A PA security source described the university employees as “very dangerous,” claiming that their efforts to establish a university were in the context of Hamas’s attempts to extend its control beyond the Gaza Strip.
In the past three years, hundreds of Palestinians have been rounded up by the PA’s forces in the West Bank on suspicion of being affiliated with Hamas.
Many of them have been held in PA prisons without trial for lengthy periods.
Among those arrested in the clampdown are five Palestinian journalists suspected of supporting Hamas or criticizing the PA leadership’s policies.
The PA security forces said that the journalists and academics were arrested because of their ties to Hamas and not because of the nature of their work or political affiliations.
A PA official in Ramallah said that the decision to release the eight university staffers was taken by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The official did not say when the men would be released.
The official denied claims by the academics’ relatives and a Palestinian parliamentarian that they had been tortured while in detention.
“We warn the media against reporting about these lies,” the official told The Jerusalem Post. “Any journalist who writes about these lies will be held responsible.”
The PA’s General Intelligence Service had warned the president of An-Najah University, Rami Hamdallah, against complaining about the arrests to Abbas.
The PA also banned Palestinian journalists and newspapers from reporting about the arrests. The Post, however, reported about the arrests twice in the past week.
The seven lecturers who were released are: law professor Ghassan Khaled; Khader Sundak, former dean of the Shari’a Faculty; scientist Mohammed Nuri; Mohammed Abu Jafar, dean of the Faculty for Higher Studies; Nizar Awartani from the Computer Department; Farid Abu Dhair, professor of journalism; and sociologist Mustapah Shinar.
Also released was Ghassan Daoud, an employee of the university’s finance department.
Hassan Khraisheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, accused the PA security services of torturing the detained academics. He urged Abbas to release them immediately to avoid harming the status of Palestinian professors and universities.
“The lecturers were arrested only because they supported Hamas or were known to be sympathetic toward Islamic groups,” Khraisheh told the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. He noted that one of the detainees, Awartani, had suffered a heart attack while being held in a PA prison a few months ago.
Also on Wednesday, as a gesture for Ramadan, the Hamas leadership in Gaza released about 100 prisoners.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.