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Leading Palestinian Activists Released Following International Outcry

*** Politicians and activists around the world condemned Palestinian Authority's persecution of human rights defenders **

RAMALLAH.— Prominent human rights defenders arrested last weekend by the Palestinian Authority have called on the PA to stop its assault on peaceful protest, upon their release from jail today.

Those arrested last weekend included Khadr Adnan, a past political prisoner known for one of the longest hunger strikes in Palestine; Zakaria Mohammed, a poet and writer; Ubai Alaboudi of the Bisan Center; Imad Barghouti, a Professor of Physics; Omar Assaf, a Ramallah city council member; and Fadi Quran, a recognized human rights defender and Campaign Director with Avaaz.

A mounting global outcry by leading politicians and human rights groups —from the Irish Parliament and US congressional representatives to Amnesty International— condemned the ongoing arrests of human rights defenders by the Palestinian Authority.

In a statement upon his release, Avaaz campaign director Fadi Quran, said: “First I want to thank all the people who stood with us from Palestine and all over the world, without them we might still be in prison now, so thank you thank you, thank you. Second, this release is a small step towards the freedom of Palestine. For us it's very clear that if we cannot produce a new leadership to unify the Palestinian people and struggle to free Palestine, we all will continue to suffer under the brutal Israeli occupation and the PA’s authoritarian rule. So our release is a small step but we will continue moving forward until we achieve freedom."

““The Palestinian Authority is an illegitimate government. They are denying all actions essential for us to continue fighting the occupation and the oppression of Israel from freedom of expression to the right to protest. It’s offensive and it’s coming out of a sense of deep fear that they don't have political representation any more. There must be new leadership for the Palestinian people that represents us and respects our will, and is committed to achieving freedom, justice and dignity for all. Not a repressive dictatorship set on violating our rights."

In a statement upon his release, Ramallah city council member Omar Assaf said:  "We were released today because we are right. I say thank you to everyone who has shown solidarity with us. And I say to our people and our movement that we will continue our actions and will keep demonstrating to achieve our demands for change, freedom, justice. We will continue until the Authority responds to us with justice for Nizar Banat, stops suppressing freedoms and recognizes the right of our people to change and hold elections.”

Since the killing of political activist Nizar Banat in custody following his arrest by Palestinian security forces in June, protests have broken out across Palestine. This weekend’s arrests are the latest development in what appears to be a concerted crackdown on freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest by the Palestinian Authority. Protestors have been fired at with stun grenades and tear gas, they faced violent assaults and arbitrary detention, and women have been physically and sexually harassed.

The arrests also raised concerns over the dire conditions the detainees were being held in: they were forced to sleep on the floor, in an over-populated cell, with an exposed toilet, the smell of sewage and mould on the walls, in a clear breach of Covid-19 public health regulations.

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Notes to editors:

(1) The European Union issued a statement expressing concern at ‘an increase in apparently politically motivated arrests by the Palestinian Authority’, and called for human rights to be respected, including freedom of speech, and freedom of protest.

(2) Members of the US Congress were quick to condemn the arrests, with US Rep. Cori Bush , US Rep. Ilan Omar , US Rep. Rashida Tlaib , US Rep. Mark Pocan , US Rep. Jan Schakowsky , joining the US Progressive Caucus in demanding the release of the prisoners.

(3) Members of The Irish Parliament’s Friends of Palestine Group spoke out against what they said seemed to be an ‘orchestrated campaign of repression against peaceful protest’ and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the detainees.