The arrest of a prominent human rights activist by Palestinian authorities has sparked an outpouring of solidarity on social media.
The Palestinian activist, Issa Amro, was arrested by security forces after he posted to Facebook a status criticizing the recent arrest of a journalist. Amro's arrest, along with that of the journalist and numerous others in recent weeks, comes amid a major crackdown on dissent and free speech carried forward by the orders of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
"All my writings on social media are part of the freedom of opinion and expression stipulated by the Palestinian Basic Law and are protected by all international laws and conventions. My arrest will not affect my defense of human rights and the rights of journalists to exercise their work freely and without pressure from the government," Amro said in a statement shortly before his detention, according to The Guardian.
Amro founded the organization Youth Against the Settlement, which documents and raises awareness about abuses by Israeli settlers and soldiers. As a result of his activism, Amro was already facing charges in Israel's military court.
Activists, dissidents and journalists have faced a crackdown from Palestinian authorities since June, when numerous websites were banned by the government. Arrests began in July following the introduction of an "electronic crimes" law, which was introduced by decree without public debate.
Supporters online have launched the hashtag "stand with Issa" in solidarity with the detained activist.
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"It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offense. Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech," Magdalena Mughrabi Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International said, in an official statement.
"We have seen an alarming escalation in the Palestinian authorities’ clampdown on freedom of expression in recent months. Instead of continuing to step up their efforts to quash dissenting voices, the Palestinian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Issa Amro and stop harassing and intimidating activists and others for daring to speak their minds freely," she said.
Even many Palestinian leaders were surprised by the arrest, according to media reports.
"No one could give any justification for it," one source told The Guardian. “But it appears the order came from Ramallah."
With his ongoing crackdown on dissident voices, including those who peacefully oppose continued Israeli occupation, it appears that Abbas is willing to hold onto power at any and all cost.