Palestinian Authority arrests activist over online criticism of its policies

The Palestinian Authority arrested a prominent activist and held him overnight after he criticized its policies in a series of online posts and accused it of arresting another individual for political reasons.

The PA, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has come under intense criticism in recent weeks after canceling the first elections in 15 years and being largely sidelined during last month’s 11-day Gaza war.

Issa Amro, an outspoken critic of both Israel and the PA who has been arrested by both in the past, said he was summoned for questioning by the PA’s cybercrimes unit late on Monday.

He said he was asked about a Facebook post in which he protested the arrest of a man linked to a political rival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In the post, he said the PA should instead arrest “corrupt” people within its own ranks.

Amro told The Associated Press he was arrested shortly thereafter and confined overnight in a “very, very dirty place which is not suitable for humans.” He appeared before prosecutors on Tuesday before being released and told to return Wednesday, when he could be charged.

Palestinian officials declined to comment on the case.

The Palestinian Authority faces a crisis of legitimacy after calling off elections in April when it looked like Abbas’ Fatah party would suffer an embarrassing defeat. Its rivals in the militant group Hamas have meanwhile seen their popularity soar following the Gaza war.

The PA has grown increasingly autocratic and unpopular in recent years. But it is still seen internationally as a partner for rebuilding Gaza — where it has had no authority since Hamas seized power in 2007 — and eventually reviving the long-moribund peace process.

The European Union on Tuesday agreed to provide $425 million in loans to the PA and Palestinian banks to help them weather an economic crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

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