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Rights groups urge Palestinian Authority to free protesters

The PA has forbidden all gatherings and imposed a lockdown in the West Bank [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 24 July, 2020

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10 of the 19 peaceful protesters arrested on Sunday remain in detention, which a court has now extended for 15 days, according to Amnesty International.
Human rights organisations have called on the Palestinian Authority to release detained anti-corruption activists accused of violating a health emergency in place to combat the spread of coronavirus.

On Sunday, "the West Bank-based Palestinian forces arrested 19 anti-corruption activists during a peaceful protest held in the city of Ramallah", Amnesty International said.

Sixteen of the activists have been charged with "illegal gathering" and "violating the emergency rules," it said Thursday, adding that 10 remained in detention.

The UK-based rights group said a Ramallah court had this week extended their detention for another 15 days.

It urged the authorities to "immediately drop all charges" and release the activists, adding that it believed they had been "detained arbitrarily".

The Palestinians' Independent Commission for Human Rights said that the detainees were on a hunger strike and two had been hospitalised.

"These are political arrests of people carrying out peaceful activities," Ammar Dweik, the commission's director-general, told AFP on Friday.

The Palestinian Authority has forbidden all gatherings and imposed a lockdown in the occupied West Bank and curfews to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, after a resurgence in cases.

Read more: Palestinian Authority reinstates lockdown to prevent coronavirus second peak

The health ministry has officially registered more than 10,000 infections in the West Bank and around 70 deaths.

On July 1, the toll was around 2,680 infections and seven deaths.

"Accusing these activists of violating the prohibition of gatherings and the state of emergency is an anti-constitutional way of exploiting this state of emergency," Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq said in a statement.

"This reinforces our fears about the renewal of the state of emergency and its use for purposes other than the fight against the novel coronavirus."

The Palestinian government announced a public health state of emergency on March 5 and has continued to extend it, allowing the authorities to further control certain areas in case of the resurgence of the virus.

"Any measures to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic must respect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly," Amnesty said.

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