Hebron-based, Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro last appeared in an Israeli military courtroom in July 2017, when his long-delayed trial was again adjourned until October. Amro, whose efforts to document and challenge Israeli human rights abuses has been recognized (and commended) internationally, faces a range of trumped-up, politically motivated charges that stretch back several years. If convicted, he faces a lengthy prison sentence.
Amro was released after his July hearing but awaits several military court sessions in October and November. In the meantime, public/diplomatic pressure to drop the charges against him must continue. Indeed, that pressure must also be applied now to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is pursuing its own repressive campaign against the activist.
On September 4, 2017, Palestinian security forces arrested Amro for posting a Facebook status criticizing the PA’s arrest of Ayman al-Qawasme, the director of Hebron-based radio station, Manbar al-Hurriya. Al-Qawasme was apprehended by Palestinian authorities on September 3, 2017, after calling on senior figures in the PA, namely President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, to resign over their failure to protect Palestinian institutions from Israeli raids/closures.
As for Amro, he was summoned by the Palestinian Preventive Security Service (PSS) for his online comments and detained for causing internal strife, offending figures of high esteem, and endangering the integrity of public order under Article 20 of the Cyber Crimes Law (or “Electronic Crimes Law”), according to prisoner support organization, Addameer.
The Cyber Crimes Law, which was created by presidential decree in June 2017, is meant to monitor a wide range of electronic crimes committed on information technology platforms. Through its often vague and far-reaching language, the law gives the PA broad legal power to imprison those expressing dissenting views online. In this way, it has become a handy tool in the PA’s escalating campaign to protect its power.
Following a hunger strike and sustained media coverage, Amro was released on a $1,400 bail on September 10. The charges against him have not, however, been dropped. Indeed, in order to build the case against him, PSS’s cyber division has confiscated his mobile phone and personal computer. According to Amro, his life was also threatened during interrogation.
Palestinian rights groups, Amnesty International, the United Nations, the European Parliament, and even members of the U.S. Congress have publicly called for both Israel and the PA to drop their baseless charges against Amro. Amro’s profile is high enough that media and diplomatic pressure against the PA/Israeli campaign could potentially succeed
A statement from Youth Against Settlements about Amro’s arrest by the PA, as well as online petitions supporting his case, can be accessed here and here. You can participate in the Twitter campaign for Amro using the haghtag #StandWithIssa.