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Beirut, June 14, 2010

Report May 2010


SKeyes Report for the month of May, 2010, on violations of media and cultural freedoms
In May 2010, SKeyes monitored a number of issues related to the violations of media and
cultural freedoms in the four countries covered by SKeyes: Lebanon, Syria, Palestine,
and Jordan.

Lebanon

Many events related to violations of media and cultural freedoms were pointed out in
Lebanon. The most important ones, for this month, are the following:

- (3/5) Lebanese Publications Court issues a ruling against journalist Fares


Khashan

A sentence was issued by the Publications Court in Beirut, headed by Judge Rukoz Rizk
and the membership of counselors Nawal Saliba and Rouaa Hamdan. The sentence
served the imprisonment of former ambassador Johny Abdo and colleague Fares Khashan
for a month following claim of the Public Prosecution against them for charges of
defaming the former President of the Republic, Emile Lahoud, after an interview
conducted by Khashan with Abdo in February 2006. The verdict also fined the director in
charge of “Almoustaqbal” newspaper, the colleague Tawfik Khattab, with the amount of
fifty million Lebanese pounds. It should be noted that the verdict passed in absentia of
Abdo and Khashan but in the presence of Khattab, and that it is subject to appeal to the
Court of Cassation where it is expected to be recognized and addressed by Khattab’s
lawyers Fouad Shabkalo and Hamada Hamada, within ten days from the date of
notification.

- (5/3) Rulings against the newspaper “Daily Star”

The court also issued two rulings against the “Daily Star” newspaper, and its director in
charge Jamil Mroue and columnist Jim Quilty. These called to fine the last two with the
amount of six million Lebanese pounds for the crimes of libel, defamation and fabrication
of false news and false accusations against “Senator Productions” and Nabil Joseph
Abbas. It compels them to pay one million Lebanese pounds as compensation for the
sake of plaintiffs.

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- (5/8) Postponement of concert reopens the subject of entry of 1948
intellectuals to Lebanon

The special concert of Palestinian composer, and Oud and Buzuq player, Khaled Jubran,
was postponed for five days, after it had been scheduled at the Tournesol theater in the
frame of the “Spring Festival” events. This was the result of a delay in granting him a
visa, a matter which brought back the discussions on the problematic entry of artists and
intellectuals of the 1948 Palestine to Lebanon to the forefront of the media.
It should be noted that Jubran and his sister Camilia (singer and Oud player) were
prevented from entering Lebanon in 2002, for the opening of “A Hundred Lives, A
Hundred Martyrs” exhibition, after the renunciation of Lebanese General Security to
granting them a visa as scheduled.

In an interview with SKeyes, the founder of the Tournesol Theater”, Roger Assaf
said: “the delay in Jubran’s arrival resulted from a confusion which was behind
the postponement in granting him an entry visa to Lebanon”. Assaf avoided
mentioning the real reason behind this delay: the fact that Jubran is a Palestinian
holding an Israeli passport. He also pointed out the role of both Ministries, of
Culture and Interior, in making Jubran’s visit to Lebanon possible “after great
efforts”. He called for linking the issue of granting entry visas for people who
work in the cultural field to the Ministry of Culture rather than to the General
Security, as is actually the case, and for establishing a general law which exempts
them from regulations pertaining to amusement centers and which will discern
between those who work in the field of dancing and commercial arts, and
intellectuals.

- (5/12) The “Muharrir” Magazine fined in the case of al-Samman

The Publications Court issued a ruling in the case filed by the novelist and poet Ghada al-
Samman against the “Muharrir” Magazine, represented by its General Manager and
editor-in-chief Nouhad al-Kadiri, the columnist Yassine Abdu Rifaia, and its director
Waddah Helou, for the crime of libel and defamation against her in an article published in
the magazine in 2006. The ruling called to fine Rifaia and Helou with an amount of one
million Lebanese pounds and compelled them along with the AlMoharrer Company
represented by Nouhad Ghadiri, to pay the plaintiff jointly and severally the amount of
one million Lebanese pounds in personal indemnities.

- (5/12) Al-Mustaqbal fined for al-Sayyed’s case

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The Publications Court in Beirut headed by Judge Rukoz Rizk and the membership of
counselors Nawal Saliba and Rouaa Hamdan issued a provision in the case brought by
General Jamil al-Sayyed against the director of “Al-Mustaqbal” newspaper Tufiq
Khattab, and against Ayman Shourrouf, Abdel Salam Moussa, and the “Arab United
Press” (publisher of Al-Mustaqbal newspaper), for the crimes of libel and slander against
him. This was the result of an article published on January 28, 2009. The sentence, which
can be appealed, fined the mentioned colleagues with the amount of six million Lebanese
pounds for each one of them, and compelled them, and the “Arab United Press”, to pay
the plaintiff jointly and severally the amount of fifteen million Lebanese pounds in
personal indemnities.

- (5/23) Two young men from “Amal” and “Hezbollah” attack a team from
New TV Channel

Team members from the New TV Channel, including correspondent Dareen Daabus and
cameraman Mohammad Kalakash, were beaten and their camera broken by members of
“Amal movement” and “Hezbollah” in the region of Humin al-Fawqa in the Caza of
Nabatiyeh while they were covering the municipal elections in South Lebanon.

In an interview with SKeyes, Daabus said: “around 50 young men attacked the
cameraman and threw him on the ground, beat him and broke his camera. After
that, they pushed me strongly which made me fall back. Then, they disbanded when
security forces secured our way out of the region. Daabus also noted that some
leaders of Hezbollah and Amal made numerous contacts with the TV channel in
the aim of bringing the event up in the media.

- (5/27) Geagea’s case against Daher transferred for perusal

The investigating judge in Beirut, Fadi al-Anaissi, transferred to the Public Prosecutor’s
Office the investigations which he conducted in the case filed by the current leader of
Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, against the President of the Board of Directors of the
Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), Pierre Daher, and each of Salah Oseiran,
Marwan Khaireddine, Randa Daher, Maroun Jazzar, Marcel Daher, and Roula Saad, for
the crimes of breach of trust and smuggling of funds. Anaissi asked the public
Prosecutor’s office to present its final submission so that he may issue the indictment,
and he decided to close investigations in the case.

- (5/31) Investigations in the lawsuit brought by Kassem against “Aliwaa”


newspaper

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Judge Majid Mzayhem began his investigations in the lawsuit brought by Hezbollah
Deputy Secretary General, Sheikh Naim Kassem, against “Aliwaa” newspaper for the
crimes of defamation and incitement, following questions raised by the newspaper about
the Ethiopian plane crash.

- (5/31) Israel attacks “Freedom flotilla” and detains Lebanese journalists and
activists

Israeli Special Forces attacked the “Freedom flotilla” aiming to break the blockade
imposed by Israel on Gaza Strip since 2007. During the attack, carried out by Israeli
helicopters and gunboats, nine Turkish activists were killed, one of whom holds a US
citizenship, and dozens suffered various injuries. Moreover, Israeli Forces arrested more
than 600 activists who were onboard, including five Lebanese citizens, namely Al-
Jazeera Lebanese correspondent, Abbas Nasser, and cameraman, Andre Abu Khalil, and
both activists Houssain Chakar and Nabil Hallak, in addition to the head of the Lebanese
mission to the “Freedom Flotilla”, Hani Suleiman, who was wounded in his leg during
Israeli attack on the aid boat “Mavi Marmara” of the flotilla.

Syria

The month of May closed on a number of violations against Syrian activists including
travel bans, website blocking, and repression and cracking down on Kurdish activists...
however, the main event was the killing of two Kurdish soldiers during their mandatory
military service, amounting to forty deaths since 2004, according to SKeyes observations.
On the other hand, the corridors of the United Nations witnessed, at the beginning of this
month, a discussion over the first report submitted by the Syrian Government to the
Committee against Torture, in the aim of showing Syrian authorities’ full respect for and
compliance with the provisions of the Convention against Torture that was signed and
ratified in July 2004. In addition to other reports filed by Human Rights Organizations to
the Committee against Torture which confirmed the escalation of serious violations
committed by Syrian Security Services in the past decades under a state of emergency
that has been in force since 1963, including practices of abductions, enforced
disappearances, arbitrary detentions, solitary confinements, torture and ill-treatments, and
deprivation of people with restricted freedom of legal assistance and medical care.

- (5/1) Syrian activist Suheir Atassi prevented from travelling to Lebanon

Syrian authorities prevented activist Suheir Atassi, head of “Jamal al-Atassi Forum” to
travel to Lebanon. Atassi was summoned several times for investigation by the State
Security Department in Damascus who withheld her identity card for several days, and
asked her to close down the “Jamal al-Atassi Forum” since she administers its electronic
version on Facebook. When she refused to do so, she was threatened with arrest and trial.
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- (5/3) Syrian Security Forces ordered not to grant any personal documents to
Kurdish activists before the approval from the State Security.

The State Security Department in Syria issued a statement, circulated in the Secretariats
of the Civil Registry in the province of Hassaka, with an order to refrain from issuing any
identity documents to Kurdish dissidents living outside the country without prior
permission from the State Security. Kurdish human rights activists considered that it
could be a prelude to the withdrawal of these dissidents’ Syrian nationality, especially
that this prohibition affected members of their families as well.

In a recent interview with SKeyes, Fouad Aliko, a member of the Kurdish Yakiti party
steering committee, said that the aim of these procedures is to “put pressure on Kurds
to stop their political activity”, and he added “families of a number of Kurdish
expatriates referred to the Civil Registry Services and they informed them of this
decision, however they did not receive any written notification. In fact, there are lists of
many names known to be active in the public affairs.” Aliko considered this matter to
be a direct response to their political activity and a message to all those who engage in
political action abroad that they will be accountable for it and subject to harassment.
With regard to the withdrawal of dissidents’ nationality, a lawyer and Human Rights
activist in Damascus said that this action does not have a legal ground, because the
Nationality Law defines certain cases where it is possible to revoke it from a citizen.”
Article 20 of this law stipulates the following: “A person shall be stripped of the
nationality through a judicial ruling if it is proved that he obtained his nationality by a
false statement or by fraud. This also applies to those who obtained their nationality
through him.” The lawyer, who requested anonymity, added: “A citizen may be
deprived of nationality according to a justified proposal by the Minister in certain
cases, for example, if he obtained a foreign nationality; or if he voluntarily entered the
military service in a foreign country without prior permission from the Minister of
Defense; or if he shows activities in favor of a country that is in a state of war with the
Nation...” The lawyer pointed out that “none of the aforementioned cases applies to
any of the Kurdish activists abroad. At least, not one of them was officially informed of
the necessity to return to the country under the threat of being subject to the penalty of
revoking nationality.” It should be noted that most of those affected by this decision are
Kurdish activists including a very small number of Arabs and Christians. This decision
also includes a number of Kurdish writers such as Dr. Banky Haju, Abdoul Baki
Youssef, Khalil Hussein, Shirko Abbas, and others.

- (5/4) Syrian Court calls on a person who has been dead for 12 years to testify
in the case of Muhannad al-Hasani

On the 4th of May, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Damascus called on Mr. Daoud
Achawa – father of Mohammad Amine Daoud Achawa who died in prison – to testify as

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a witness. He accused Mr. Mouhannad al-Hasani of inciting him to file a case against the
Ministers of Interior and Defense for causing the death of his son under torture. The
hearing was adjourned until May 27, when the court decided to deny requests for hearing
witnesses on the pretext of irrelevance.

- (5/7) Detained Syrian lawyer and activist, Muhannad al-Hasani, receives the
Martin Ennals Award

The Jury of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights defenders (for the Middle East
and Africa), granted its award for 2010 to the detained Syrian lawyer and activist
Muhannad al-Hasani.

The Chairman of the Jury in the Middle East region and Africa, Hans Thoolen,
described lawyer Muhannad al-Hasani as “a man of an exceptional courage,
arbitrarily detained in unacceptable conditions for defending the rule of law and
the right to organize a Human Rights organization.”

- (5/6) Two Kurdish soldiers killed during military service

The number of Kurdish soldiers killed during their mandatory military service in Syria
amounted to 40 deaths after the killing of soldiers Chabat Hasan Aliko, on May 6, and
Hassan Mohammad Diro, on May 30. Kurdish organizations for Human Rights said that
the recurrence of such events of Kurdish soldiers being killed in the Syrian army, raised
concern and suspicion among their families, especially since the authorities did not set
out to investigate into such incidents and only claimed they were cases of suicide.

In the same context, the United Nations Committee against Torture expressed
its concern at reports revealing that Syria has established secret detention
facilities under the command of Intelligence Services where inmates are
detained in solitary confinement and subjected to cruel treatment.
The committee also cited several reports of torture, ill-treatment, and deaths in
custody and incommunicado detention of people belonging to the Kurdish
minority, who are mostly “foreigners” without papers, in particular political
activists of Kurdish origins. Moreover, the committee said that it “notes with
concern reports of growing trend of deaths of Kurdish conscripts who have died
whilst carrying out their mandatory military service and whose bodies were
returned to the families with evidence of severe injuries.”

- (5/13) Military Prosecutor accuses Maleh of the crime of spreading false


news

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The Military General Prosecutor requested the conviction of lawyer and Human Rights
activist Haitham al-Maleh for the crime of disseminating false news aimed at weakening
the morale of the nation. The hearing was adjourned until 3/6/2010 for defense. It should
be noted that Haitham al-Maleh (79 years) holds a law degree and a diploma in
International Law. He started his career as a lawyer in 1957. He was arrested by the State
Security Department in Damascus, on 14/10/2009, and then the military police
transferred him to the military court.

- (5/20) Syrian Security Services arrest a Kurdish leader and transfer another
to the Military Court.

The State Security Department arrested Mohammad Abdi Saadoun, a member of the
Political committee of the Kurdish Azadi Party.

A lawyer and human rights activist told SKeyes that Saadoun was called
through the Education Department in the city of Malekeya to go for
questioning by the State Security Department in Qamishli. Since the moment of
his referral to the aforementioned department, no one ever heard of him again.
It is believed that the Security Services mentioned above have arrested and
detained him far from the outside world without an arrest warrant or a ruling
issued by the competent judicial authorities. To this day, his fate remains
unknown.

On the other hand, Mahmoud Safo, a member of the political bureau of the Kurdish
Left Party in Syria, appeared before the Individual Military Judge in Qamishli (5/30).
He was sentenced for being the leader of a secret association. His case was adjourned
before the Military Court until the 14/6/2010.

- (5/27) The trial of Syrian lawyer and Human Rights activist Muhannad al-
Hasani continues

The Syrian lawyer and activist Muhannad al-Hasani appeared before the Second
Criminal Court in a special session dedicated to determine the credibility of the
statements published by “Sawasiya” about the charges leveled against him. Al-Hasani
is the president of the Syrian Organization for Human Rights “Sawasiya”. He was
arrested on July 28, 2009 after multiple questioning sessions by the State Security
Department in Damascus. He was also disbarred on November 10, 2009.

- (5/27) Golan website blocked

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Syrian authorities blocked the Golan Website which is supervised and run by the “Golan
Association for the Development of Arab Villages” in the occupied part of the Golan
Heights, as well as the website “Dalilak” run by Mounir Samara. People in charge of the
website considered this blockage as “an attempt to bring confusion, neutralize and distort
facts, and steal information to convey it in the wrong direction.”

- (5/31) Assyrian teacher separated from her job for her political affiliation by
the Political Security Services

The Directorate of Education, Private Education Section, in the province of Hassaka –


northeastern Syria – issued a decision asking for the immediate separation of teacher
Evelyn Bachir Saadi (degree in English literature) from her job in the “Private School of
Freedom” in Qamishli. The school belongs to the Syrian Orthodox church which
provides for the payment of wages and salaries to teachers, educators and other
contractors. Moreover, the Directorate banned the school from contracting her in the
future.

A leader in the Assyrian Democratic Organization in Qamishli said that “this


arbitrary and unjustified decision is related to her political affiliation and to the
political activity of her father, former deputy Bachir Isaac Saadi, who was a leader
in the Assyrian Democratic Organization”.

- (5/31) A journalist and a writer among four Syrian citizens arrested in the
“Freedom Flotilla”

Israeli forces arrested Hassan al-Rifai, a correspondent from Al-Quds satellite TV


channel, the writer Shaza Barakat, the Archbishop of Jerusalem in exile Hilarion
Capucci, and the activist Mohammad Satalah, during their operation “Winds of Heaven”
against the “Freedom Flotilla” human expedition. The ship was loaded with humanitarian
and medical aid to Gaza Strip which is under blockade since 2007. The four detainees,
who were among more than 600 activists from more than 40 different nationalities, were
released on June 2.

The West Bank

Detention is no longer the only weapon raised in the face of freethinkers; this month new
phenomena appeared at the forefront of violations, namely: Military Courts, travel
banning, armed attacks, and pressure through twisted and pervert methods.
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This month closed on a number of violations carried out by Israel and the Palestinian
Authority against journalists, intellectuals and foreign peace activists, with innovative
methods of punishment represented by the issuing of Israeli racist laws to tighten the grip
on prisoners, with a total disregard of international conventions.

Following are the main events that took place in May in the West Bank.

- (5/2) Preventive Security Services release journalist Samed Dweikat after 22


days

The Preventive Security Services released the journalist Samed Dweikat 22 days
following his arrest. Dweikat was arrested on April 10, after being summoned for
interrogation at the Preventive Security headquarters, after which he was transferred to
Aljunied prison, in the western side of the city.

- (5/2) Cameraman of European “APA” agency injured in the head

APA photographer Muammar Awad was injured in the head after being attacked with a
tear-gas canister by Israeli soldiers. This happened during his coverage of the weekly
march which took off in the town of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, against the apartheid wall.
Awad reported that “he was targeted by one of the occupation soldiers from a distance of
less than twenty meters, despite the fact that he was wearing a press uniform and holding
a camera.”

- (5/2) Israeli forces prevent the General Director of “Al-Haq” organization,


Shawan Jabarin, from travelling

The General Director of the Palestinian organization “Al-Haq”, Shawan Jabarin, was
denied his right to exit the Occupied Territory. Mr Jabarin had attempted to travel in
response to an invitation from the UN High Commissioner in Switzerland to participate
in a meeting on “International Human Rights Protection Mechanisms”.
The travel ban coincided with Jabarin’s appointment as Director General of “Al-Haq” in
2006. Despite his appeal to the Israeli High Court of Justice on five occasions to lift the
travel ban against him, the court upheld the ban on the pretext of file secrecy.

- (5/4) Palestinian Intelligence Services arrest cameraman Mohammad


Halayqeh

The Palestinian Intelligence Services extended investigations with the cameraman,


Mohammad Halayqeh, by four additional days, after they had arrested him in the

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aftermath of an interview which he conducted with the President of a village council in
the West Bank, who accused Halayqeh “of broadcasting the interview on the Aqsa TV
channel without telling him the name of the channel in advance”.

- (5/6) Israeli forces arrest the writer Walid al-Hodali

After being summoned at his home in Al-Bireh, the writer Walid al-Hodali was arrested
by Israeli Intelligence services.

Al-Hodali had spent twenty months in detention after filing a case to the Supreme
Court to protest against his prohibition to travel and to meet his children, whom he
has been deprived of seeing for over twenty years. He was released less than a year
ago while his case was dismissed on the pretext that he has already been jailed. His
arrest came as a result for claiming his right to travel again.

- (5/8) Military Public Prosecutor arrests “al-Aqsa” Channel correspondent

The Military Public Prosecutor extended by one week the detention period of Samer
Rowaished, correspondent at al-Aqsa Channel, on the pretext of non-completion of
interrogation, eight days after his arrest at his house.

According to his brother, Hani Rowaished, “he was arrested because he works as a
correspondent for al-Aqsa TV channel in the West Bank. He has been in
incommunicado detention since his arrest, and is subjected to insult and moral
pressure from the Palestinian Intelligence Services.”

- (5/9) Palestinian Security Forces arrests husband of journalist Louma


Khater to prevent her from writing

The Palestinian Authority’s Intelligence Services arrested Hazem Khodr Fakhoury, the
husband of writer and journalist Luma Khater. Khater considered this move as a way to
put pressure on her to prevent her from writing articles on the Palestinian political, social
and media situation.

- (5/10) Palestinian Intelligence Services release journalist Muhannad Salahat

The Palestinian Intelligence Services released the representative of the Palestinian


Human Rights Foundation “Rasd (Monitor)” in Jordan, journalist Muhannad Salahat.
Salahat was arrested three times, most recently on May 1, after being summoned to the
Palestinian Intelligence headquarters in Nablus without any specific charges leveled
against him.
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- (5/11) The Military Court in Nablus sentences the Human Rights activist,
Hassan al-Zagha, to two years imprisonment

The Military Court in Nablus sentenced the Human Rights activists, Hassan al-Zagha, to
two years imprisonment on charges of funding prohibited armed militias.

In an interview with SKeyes, al-Zagha’s wife, Siham Fatayer, said: “on


December 14, 2009, the Palestinian Authority’s Intelligence Bureau detained
and tortured my husband using the ghost method during his early days in jail.
Then they transferred him to another Security Service which is the Information
Bureau.” And she added “we do not know the date or the place of the hearing,
however, we have learned that he was sentenced to two years. This would be the
sixth time the court is held to pass the verdict but it was adjourned on each of
the previous times.”

For his part, Anas Barghouthi, the lawyer of “Conscience” Foundation, who is
defending al-Zagha, noted that “the Palestinian High Court of Justice ordered
the release of al-Zagha based on the fact that the detaining party was illegal,
and cleared him according to a decision issued on May 12, 2009. But the
Security Services do not abide by the decision of the High Court.”

Barghouthi pointed out “the illegality of Military courts which level charges
with the same content to all defendants; charges ranging from opposing the
Authority public policy, assisting prohibited armed militia, to possessing arms.”
He also underlined the fact that “the trial of civilians before Military Courts is
considered to be a flagrant violation of Palestinian law, and to this day,
“Conscience” documented the trial of 40 civilians by such courts.
He added “it is well known that once a ruling is issued by the Military Court
serving an imprisonment, the detainee is left with only two options in order to
be released: either a pardon issued by President Mahmoud Abbas personally,
which is almost impossible in the case of al-Zaghi, or an appeal against the
decision of the Military Court presented by the lawyer before the Palestinian
Constitutional Court, however the prevailing political will to uphold political
arrests prevents this alternative from being doable. The lawyers do not usually
resort to the second option to avoid a decision that would reject the appeal,
which will be a legal precedent to which they will refer for future rejection of all
appeals against the verdicts issued by Military Courts”.

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- (5/15) Israeli forces escalate the campaign of arrests and assaults on
Palestinian Journalists

Israeli forces attacked “Al-Ayyam” newspaper editor, Ahmad Farraj, at the Hizma
checkpoint while he was headed for Ramallah City. On the other hand, “Alsharquiya”
channel cameraman, Ala’ Abul Sou’oud, was arrested, while the correspondent of
“Palestinian TV”, Harun Amayreh, suffered from suffocation as a result of gas inhalation.
They were both covering the Bil’in weekly march near Ramallah.

- (5/23) Israeli forces target foreigners in solidarity and journalists in the city
of Beit Jala

Israeli Forces escalated the pace of attacks targeting foreigners in solidarity, activists, and
journalists who were covering peaceful sit-ins against the construction of the separation
wall. Three foreigners in solidarity suffered bruises and wounds, while eight others were
arrested. A Palestinian journalist was also wounded. Israeli assaults took place during a
popular demonstration against the separation apartheid wall and land excavation in the
city. The march was called by the National Committee Against the Wall and Settlements,
with the collaboration of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlement
Expansion in Bethlehem.

- (5/23) Two new Israeli racial laws punish thousands of Palestinian prisoners

The Israeli Ministerial Committee endorsed the so-called “Shalit Law”, aimed at
aggravating the conditions of detention of Palestinian prisoners “who will be treated with
the same detention conditions as soldier Shalit’s” according to the words of Israeli
sources. This Israeli law is a precedent to allow violations against Palestinian detainees
and is at odds with International conventions and laws.

Among most important infringements against Palestinian prisoners: “they will be


totally barred from their right to family visits and access to lawyer. Allowed visits
will be restricted to Red Cross representatives with a limit of one visit every three
months. Detainees will be deprived from watching TV, continuing their education,
and reading books and newspaper. They will also continue to suffer solitary
confinement as a means for punishment for unlimited periods. Moreover, prisoners
will not be allowed to purchase their needs and will be subjected to constraint.

- (5/29) Israeli forces target reporter with a tear-gas canister in Iraq Burin

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Israeli forces attacked the reporter of “WAFA” and “Chinese News” agencies, Ayman
Nubani, by throwing a tear-gas canister on his leg causing him bruises and burns. The
incident took place while he was covering a peaceful demonstration in the village of Iraq
Burin near Nablus.

Nubani said “I was standing with a group of journalists and cameramen


relatively far from the demonstration. We were using sophisticated lenses in
order to take pictures distantly because one of the Israeli occupation soldiers
threatened to hurt us if we stayed in the village and filmed the events taking
place there. Although we were far from the center of events and wearing anti-
gas masks and bulletproof jackets, we were targeted with more than five tear-
gas canisters.

In a related event, the vice-president of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate,


Omar Nazzal, said in a statement issued by the Syndicate: “The Journalists
Syndicate is preparing a legal file on violations of Israeli occupation forces
against journalists and media, in the aim of later bringing it to international
judicial bodies and Human Rights and freedom of opinion organizations as well
as international journalists bodies.”

Gaza Strip

The brutal assault carried out by the Israeli gunboats and battleships on the boats
belonging to the “Freedom Flotilla”, carrying medical and humanitarian supplies to Gaza
Strip, overshadowed all other events on the Palestinian and international levels. During
the assault various types of excessive military force as well as live ammunitions were
used against activists in solidarity, Human Rights activists, and unarmed civilians, which
resulted in 19 deaths and dozens of injured. The gunboats towed the ships by force to the
port of Ashdod, and they started arresting everyone on board – human rights activists and
in solidarity, and journalists – and then they threw them in prison No26 which was all set
and equipped two weeks ago for that purpose, while Israeli authorities imposed a
complete media blackout on the results of the “massacre”.

The series of violations against media and cultural freedoms in Gaza during the month of
May came as follows:

- (5/3) Attack on the “Palestinian Center for Communication and


Development Studies”

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The Palestinian Center for Communication and Development Studies was attacked by
unidentified gunmen who broke into the office located in Palestine Tower, Central Gaza,
in broad daylight. They stole two laptops, one of which belonging to the journalist Asma
al-Ghul, SKeyes’ correspondent in Gaza, and the second to the Center. The police was
called and came on the spot. They examined the place and conducted investigations into
the incident; however they did not bring any new facts on the case until today while the
perpetrators are still unrevealed. The incident sparked a massive wave of condemnation
among Human Rights organizations and civil society institutions, which expressed their
fear to see this phenomenon spread, and also their solidarity with the Center, asking the
Palestinian police to rapidly uncover the perpetrators and bring them to trial.

- (5/5) Arrest of a journalist from “Keffiyeh Press” on charges of spreading


rumors

Ihab Al-Ghussein, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry of Hamas deposed government
in Gaza, declared that the security forces in Gaza arrested a journalist working for the
“Keffiyeh Press” of the Fatah movement, on charges of spreading rumors. Ghusseini said
to Hamas’ “Al-Aqsa” channel that a journalist working for “Keffiyeh Press”, was
arrested and is under investigations, without any mention of his name or the place of his
detention.

- (5/17) Detention of media spokesman for the Fatah Movement Fayez Abou
Atiyeh

Interior Security Services of the Hamas deposed government in Gaza arrested the media
spokesman for the Fatah movement, Fayez Abu Attiyeh, who resides in Ramallah but
was visiting Gaza to receive condolences for the death of his father. A statement issued
by Fatah movement explains that the so-called Hamas’ Interior Security still violates the
personal freedom of Dr. Fayez, the media spokesman for the Fatah movement, as he is
daily detained for several hours and interrogated about the nature of his work as a
spokesman for the movement. The statement pointed out that Hamas Security confiscated
Abou Atiyeh’s identity card as well as his cell phone “as soon as he left the Israeli
checkpoint at Beit Hanoun. On May 22, Fatah declared that Hamas Security forces
placed him under house arrest.

- (5/20) Journalist Assaad Saftawi summoned and placed under house arrest

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Investigation Services of the Hamas deposed government in Gaza summoned the young
columnist Assaad Saftawi for publishing an article in “Al-Ayyam” newspaper. He was
interrogated for long consecutive hours and released after signing a pledge to abstain
from writing any news that might “offend the Government in Gaza”. Saftawi said that the
next morning he received a phone call from the unit itself informing him that he is placed
under house arrest for three days. A close source confirmed that he was summoned on
May 24 for interrogation and then released.
Also, in the same frame of events, the Investigation Services also summoned a person
working in the field of theater, who runs a gallery in Gaza, for interrogation. He was
severely beaten for some unknown reasons.

- (5/24) “The Independent Commission for Human Rights” prevented from


holding a workshop

The Interior Security Agency of the Hamas deposed government in Gaza prevented the
“Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights” from holding a workshop titled
“The Reality of Rights and Freedoms... a Review of ICHR’s Report for 2009.” A
researcher at the High Commission said that “The Interior Security Agency delivered a
notice to the manager of the Grand Palace Hotel, where the workshop was scheduled,
asking him not to allow the workshop to take place on allegation that it is not licensed.”
He also pointed that the Director of ICHR, Mr. Jamil Sarhan, received a phone call from
the Interior Security Agency asking him to refrain from holding the workshop.

- (5/24) The prevention of a symbolic sit-in in solidarity with “URNWA”


The police of the Ministry of Interior of the Hamas Deposed government prevented the
organization of a symbolic sit-in on Gaza beach, called for by Palestinian NGO network,
civil society institutions, and Human Rights organizations, to support UNRWA and to
condemn the attack on its summer camp which was burned by “unknown” gunmen.
The network condemned this decision and considered it as “a violation of the right to
peaceful assembly, and freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed by the Basic Law
and the Public Meetings Law” The network also pointed out that it followed due legal
processes in organizing the sit-in and called upon Hamas deposed government in Gaza to
renounce to such decisions and work seriously to enforce public freedoms and human
rights”.

- May 31, Israeli warships brutally attack the “Freedom Flotilla”


Israeli gunboats and battleships brutally attacked the Freedom Flotilla carrying medical
and humanitarian aids to Gaza Strip, in international waters off the Palestinian coast.
Various types of excessive military force and live ammunitions were used during the
assault against activists in solidarity and unarmed civilians, who flocked aboard six ships

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loaded with aid from forty countries. The attack resulted in 19 deaths and dozens of
wounded some of whom with very serious injuries, according to unofficial news
circulated by news agencies before communication was interrupted with the flotilla. The
Israeli gunboats towed the ships by force to the port of Ashdod, in a clear operation of
piracy, and started arresting everyone on board: passengers in solidarity, human rights
activists, and journalists.

The 1948 territories

Hadn’t been for the massacre committed by Israeli forces against passengers in solidarity
on board of the “Freedom Flotilla” at the end of May and the beating by Jewish
extremists of “Al-Jazeera” crew at the port of Ashdod, the arrest in the territories of 48,
of the writer Ameer Makhoul, chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of
Political Freedoms, as well as officials from human rights organizations and civil society
institutions in occupied territories, would have been at the top spot in mainstream media.
The incident culminated with the submission by the Israeli Public Prosecution of a very
serious indictment against Makhoul accusing him of “contacting a foreign agent,
espionage, aggravated espionage, conspiracy to assist the enemy, and aiding the enemy in
time of war”, a single day after the ratification by the Knesset of a new racial law to
withdraw the nationality from “those accused of espionage and terrorism”. On the other
hand, Israeli Police continued perpetrating attacks on peaceful demonstrations in Sheikh
Jarrah and arresting Jewish Left-wing activists in solidarity with the people from the
Palestinian neighborhood whom properties are being confiscated by force by settlers,
with the obvious support of the police, as well as other abuses and violations documented
during May which came as follows:

- (5/6) Arrest of Chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of


Political Freedoms with a gag order

Israeli police arrested the chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political
Freedoms in the 48 territories and the head of “Ittijah” association, the writer Ameer
Makhoul, at his house in Haifa, at dawn. Israeli authorities imposed a gag order on the
case until May 11, when the Magistrates’ Court allowed part of the “severe security
case”, as described by Israeli Police, to be unveiled. On May 12, the Magistrate’s Court
extended the detention period by five days, despite the Israeli Prosecutor’s request to
extend it by 12 days. On the other hand, the Court extended the detention of Dr Omar
Said, a political activist by four days, on suspicion of “espionage and contact with a
foreign agent”. Makhoul was denied his right to meet his lawyer from the moment of his
arrest, while Israeli police noted that “investigations in the case are ongoing with the
knowledge and under the supervision of the Attorney General (the Government’s Legal
Advisor), the Head of Israeli Investigations and Intelligence Division, and the Public
Prosecutor.
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- (5/12) Four Israeli activists arrested and fined with a decision to distance
them

Israeli police arrested four Israeli activists who were participating in a peaceful
demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah to protest against the takeover of Palestinian homes in the
area by extremist Jewish settlers. The settlers tore Palestinian flags carried by activists
during the demonstration. They also beat and insulted them, and tried to stop them from
continuing the march. The clash escalated between protestors and the police who alleged
that the demonstration was illegal and that protestors acted violently. At around 5 P.M.,
the police arrested four of them and then released them at around 10 P.M. with a decision
to distance them from the area for 15 days and make them pay a bail of 10 thousand
shekels each. Three of them faced the charges of illegal assembly and breach of public
order while the fourth was accused of assaulting a policeman.

- (5/14) Israeli police arrest 14 Jewish human rights activists in Sheikh Jarrah

Israeli police arrested 14 Israeli left-wing activists, most of whom are organizers of the
weekly protest demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah. The protestors complained from the
brutality used by the police against them which forced four of the protestors to leave the
place for medical assistance. All of them were arrested Friday after noon at around 5 and
were not released until Saturday night at 1A.M. but they did not agree to sign the terms of
the release.

The activists were unanimous on the fact that “the way the police acted on
“Jerusalem Day” showed, without a doubt, that it sees itself as a part of the settler
movement in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. In fact, the
police allowed hundreds of settlers who came in buses from around the occupied
territories to dance and celebrate at the center of the neighborhood, blocking roads
and sidewalks, and stirring up panic among Palestinians, while a group of leftist
activists were prevented to stand by the Palestinian residents claiming that their
presence in the neighborhood is an illegal gathering.”

- (5/20) Official in charge of the 1948-territories prisoners file summoned and


placed under house arrest

Munir Mansour, official in charge of prisoners file in the Higher Arab Monitoring
Committee, former chairperson of “Ansar al-Sajin” (friends of the prisoner), and head of
the “Arab Council for Prisoners and Released Prisoners” (which was closed by Israel
before it started its activities), was summoned for investigations in Karmiel by Israeli
police, on the eve of the festival in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails,
which was scheduled to take place on the 21st of May. At night, Mansour was transferred

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to Shefa’Amr police for interrogation which lasted hours and was placed under house
arrest for three days, until May 23. However, he was called the next morning for
interrogation at the Karmiel Police as well, and then he was transferred to Shefa’Amr
where he was detained for hours and released in the evening, after making sure that he
was unable to participate in the festival in solidarity with the prisoners.

- (5/20) 24 Arab Human Rights organizations condemn arbitrary measures


against Ameer Makhoul

24 Arab Human Rights Organizations and Associations expressed their deepest concern
at the arbitrary measures taken by the Israeli authorities against the writer Ameer
Makhoul, chairman of “Ittijah” association and of the Popular Committee for the Defense
of Political Freedoms in the 48 territories. They called Human Rights bodies within the
United Nations and European Union institutions to intervene with Israeli authorities for
his immediate and unconditional release, through a statement they issued earlier. They
also called Israeli authorities to end arbitrary measures based upon emergency regulations
for the repression of Human Rights activists in the 48-territories, and to guarantee their
internationally recognized rights.

- (5/23) Israeli army confiscates album covers of artist Basel Zayed

Israeli army confiscated covers of artist Basel Zayed’s musical album “Adam”. It
happened at “Attara” checkpoint where the album producer, Kareem Kilani, passed on
his way back to his hometown Um Al Fahem from Ramallah. The soldiers stopped and
searched the car, and they confiscated the album covers which were in the form of a CD
with titles that did not live up to the soldiers, who claimed that they were inciting against
Israel.

- (5/26) A racist law provides for the withdrawal of citizenship from those
“accused of espionage or terrorism”

In an emergency meeting and first reading, the Israeli Knesset ratified and voted by a
slim majority for the new racist law presented by the racist party “Israel Our Home”. This
law provides for the “revocation of nationality from citizens involved in espionage or
terrorism activities” after the lawsuits filed against the writer Ameer Makhoul, chairman
of Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms in the 48-territories and
against some other officials of civil society institutions and Human Rights associations in
the occupied territories.

- (5/27) Israeli public prosecutor charged Ameer Makhoul with very serious
accusations
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A serious indictment submitted to the Haifa District Court against the chairman of the
Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms in the 48-territories, the writer
Ameer Makhoul. Makhoul is being charged with “contacts with a foreign agent,
espionage, aggravated espionage, conspiracy to assist the enemy, and aiding the enemy in
time of war”. The same day, an indictment against the political activist Dr. Omar Saeed
was filed before the Nazareth District Court attributing to him the offenses of “contacts
with a foreign agent and the delivery of information to the enemy”. They both informed
their lawyers that they vehemently deny these charges. The indictment against Makhoul
was based on confessions made during interrogations, while his attorney declared that
“these confessions were coerced through pressure and torture during interrogations.”

- (5/31) Attack on Al Jazeera’s bureau chief at the Port of Ashdod

A group of extremist right-wing Jewish activists beat “Al-Jazeera’s” Bureau Chief in


Palestine, correspondent Walid Al-Omari, and the crew accompanying him which
included Majid Safadi and Maamoun Othman, while they were in the vicinity of the Port
of Ashdod covering the arrival of the “Freedom Flotilla” ships towed to the port by
Israeli warships. Al Omari was taken by an ambulance to a hospital to receive medical
treatment.

Al-Jazeera said that a group of extremist right-wing activists started throwing


the special lighting pole – used by the crew for filming – which hit Al-Jazeera
correspondent directly in the stomach. And when he asked for help from the
police to secure the evacuation of the crew, he was assaulted even more brutally
and beaten several times on his head and chest. Subsequently, the extremists
pushed his colleagues, Majid Safadi and Maamoun Othman, away from their
location and equipment. Later, the Israeli police secured a way out for the
crew’s cars, but a number of right-wing extremists attacked the cars as they
were leaving, and they started shouting, cursing, and knocking violently with
their fists on the car windows.

Jordan

The Court of Appeals in Jordan surprised everyone by issuing an unprecedented decision


in the Kingdom, asking not to crime a newspaper, its editor-in-chief, and its columnist,
with the crime of infringing the provisions of Articles 5 and 7 of the Press and
Publications Law, affirming the right of the journalist to convey information. This
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decision coincided with the abolition of the Supreme Court to stop the columnist Abdul
Hadi Raji al-Majali from writing. However, that did not prevent the Department of Press
and Publications from prohibiting the distribution of the novel “The Corpse”, by the
Jordanian writer Outhama Aknan, in the Kingdom, because it “offends religions”, nor did
it prevent Amman’s Public Prosecutor from transferring the case of the columnist
Moufek Mahaddin and the writer Sufian al-Tall, to the Amman Court of First Instance as
it stands for the Criminal Court. Details came as follows:

- (5/16) An unprecedented ruling in Jordan affirms the right of a journalist to


convey information

The Court of Appeals in Jordan issued a decision not to crime “Al-Meraat (The Mirror)”
Newspaper, its editor in chief, and its columnist, with the crime of infringing the
provisions of Articles 5 and 7 of the Press and Publications Law No 8 for the year 1998
and article 15 of the law relating to contempt of courts, without returning the case to the
Court of First Instance which convicted them all. This is considered to be an
unprecedented ruling in the history of Jordanian judiciary as it affirms the right of the
journalist to convey information on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The lawyer, Mohammad Qutaishat, president of the Media Legal Aid Unit for
Journalists “MELAD”, said that “this decision is considered to be a new victory for
the freedom of media, and a new judicial trend in press and publications cases,
towards more just relations with the media sector.” He also stressed that “this is a
precedent in the history of Jordanian judiciary in terms of the creation and
establishment of the governance based on International Standards for the freedom
of opinion and speech, and in particular the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights. On the other hand, the decision added to the history of the
Jordanian judiciary a democratic quality in terms of respecting what came in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is considered a moral declaration and
not an obligatory one.” He added: “the decision cemented the “presumption of
innocence” in favor of journalists in the sense that it freed them from the burden of
proving all elements of crime to the public prosecutor, and that journalists are
primarily considered innocent until proven guilty.”

- (5/19) Press Syndicate overturns decision to stop journalist Majali from


writing

The Supreme Court of Justice in Jordan decided to overturn the decision made by the
Jordanian Press Syndicate which called for stopping the columnist Abdul Hadi Raji al
Majali from writing and practicing journalism for six months, and also to overturn any
measures based on and resulting from the execution of that decision. Earlier in March, the
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Press Syndicate had taken disciplinary measures against al Majali in virtue of which he
stopped practicing journalism for six months, following a complaint filed against him by
former MP Khalil Attieh.

- (5/19) Cases of journalist Mahaddin and writer al-Tall transferred to the


Court of First Instance

Amman’s Public Prosecutor transferred the case of the columnist Moufek Mahaddin, and
the writer and Human Rights activist Sufian al-Tall, to Amman Court of First Instance as
it stands for the Criminal Court, with the same charges leveled at them by the State
Security Prosecutor, and which include “carrying out activities that might disturb
relations with a foreign country, stirring racial hatred, inciting through public speeches
the change of the current government, and carrying out actions that might undermine the
prestige and the status of the State.” Al-Tall was also charged with a fifth accusation,
namely “vilifying an official body (the army)” upon a lawsuit filed by retired military
agents against them last February.

- (5/30) The novel “The Corpse” by writer Outhama Aknan banned in the
Kingdom

The Department of Press and Publications distribution prohibited the distribution of the
novel “The Corpse” by the Jordanian writer Outhama Aknan, which was recently
published by the Jordanian “Dar Ward” for publication and distribution, on the pretext of
“offending religions”.

Aknan said that the Department of Press and Publications informed him verbally of
the distribution ban in the Kingdom after submitting his book to more than one
regulatory agencies, including the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs which
recommended its ban, and the Minister of Culture. He pointed out that the Department
“based its decision on two reasons, the first being that his novel offends religions, and
the second being what it described as “using cheap sexual means”. He further stressed
that he has the right “to sue the Press Department”, referring to the “existence of a
clear double standard in the criteria adopted on books licensing or banning; it bans
“The Corpse” while it allows the distribution of thousands of other books, including
“A Thousand and One Nights”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “The Yacoubian Building”, and
others.

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