Times New Roman
(Page 1 of 2)
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A Palestinian atheist who
was jailed and beaten last year for expressing anti-Muslim views on Facebook and
in blogs says Palestinian security forces are harassing him again, despite
government pledges to respect human rights.
The blogger's renewed ordeal is part of a persistent
climate of intolerance of dissent in the territories controlled by Palestinian
Abbas, say human rights activists. They say they've seen improvements,
including a marked decrease in the mistreatment of detainees, but that Abbas'
security forces, who are partially funded by the West, must halt harassment and
Government spokesman Ghassan
Khatib acknowledged occasional lapses, but said that in the past two years,
"there's been great progress and success in reducing abuses."
promises mean little to atheist blogger Walid Husayin, who has lived in fear of
the security forces since being released from a nine-month prison stint
"I'm sick and tired. My life has come to a halt," the
28-year-old Husayin said in a phone interview from his home in the northern
West Bank town of Qalqiliya.
his release on bail, he has been picked up several times by security agents and
held for days at a time. In one of those detentions, he was beaten with cables
and forced to stand in a painful position on empty cans, said Husayin, the son
of a Muslim preacher. Interrogators smashed his two computers and demanded that
he stop expressing his views, he said.
Activists from three rights organizations said they
witnessed an increase in arbitrary detentions in recent months, including
calling in "troublemakers" for repeated interrogation, but said they hadn't yet
collated 2011 figures.
Those targeted include loyalists of the Islamic
Abbas' political rival, and supporters of Hezb
al-Tahrir, or the "Liberation Party," a puritan Islamic movement
increased pressure on dissent coincides with pro-democracy uprisings of the
Mideast Arab Spring, but it's not clear if there is a direct link.
Anti-government demonstrations in the West Bank usually draw just a few dozen or
few hundred people, tiny compared to protests that toppled rulers in Egypt,
Libya and Tunisia over the past year.
There appears to be little popular sympathy for those
targeted in the crackdown, said Jamil
Rabah, an independent Palestinian pollster.
Gaza, ruled by the Islamic Hamas since a violent takeover in 2007, the Islamists
appear to dealing even more harshly with critics, particularly on
territories, those who violate social norms find themselves in the crosshairs.
In Gaza, Hamas recently banned a televised amateur singing contest on modesty
grounds because it included female contestants.
In the West Bank, Palestinian-American comedian Maysoon
Zayid said her husband was roughed up and lightly hurt last fall after she
mocked Palestinian officials in a skit. Witnesses identified the assailants as
plainclothes security men, said Zayid, a contributor to "Countdown with Keith
Olbermann" on Current TV, a U.S. cable show.
said it was the first attempt at intimidation after years of West
like the Palestinian Authority is going backward," said Zayid, a resident of
Cliffside Park, New Jersey. "That is not the state I am fighting for."
Blogger Husayin, who got his start with anonymous
Facebook posts, caused an uproar in the Arab world in 2010 by mocking Islam's Prophet
Muhammad, dismissing Islam as a primitive religion and sarcastically
referring to himself as God.
November 2010, he was caught in a sting that used Facebook to find him. In the
West Bank, it's against the law to defame Islam or Christianity.
He was initially held without charges, but eventually
he was accused of blasphemy and insulting people's beliefs. For four of the nine
months of his initial detention, he was kept in solitary confinement. He told
the New York-based Human
Rights Watch that he was shackled for long periods and so harshly beaten
that he vomited blood. After his release on bail in August, a court gave him a
three-year suspended sentence.
returned home to his conservative Muslim family, rarely venturing out. He said
his family is ashamed of what people might say about him, because of his
unorthodox views. Husayin said he doesn't want people to see him either — he
still fears vigilante retribution.
blogger wouldn't allow reporters to visit, saying he feared it would inflame
Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, said he was not aware
of harassment against Husayin.
isn't acceptable to summon somebody for ideological reasons. I am prepared to
deal with this case," he said.
the government spokesman, portrayed attempts to stifle dissent as growing pains.
"We can promise that in 2012, we will have progress from last year. We are
building a state, and there are difficulties in doing that," he said.
the blogger's "crime" is unusual in the West Bank, his arbitrary detention fits
a pattern, activists from three human rights groups said. Shawan Jabarin of the
rights group al-Haq said he was aware of hundreds of arbitrary detentions in the
past few months.
bulk of those detained are Hamas supporters.
"We haven't seen tremendous improvement in rights and
freedoms," said Randa Siniora of the Independent
Commission for Human Rights.
worst abuses receded over the past two years, like torture of political
activists and lengthy detentions, the activists said, and the practice of trying
civilians in military courts has largely stopped, they said.
the police spokesman, said lessons have been learned.
are individual cases of abuse, but we don't have a culture of revenge,"
activists say it's too soon to speak of a major shift in attitude.
"There's a lack of accountability, a lack of laws
enshrining rights," said Jabarin. "We can't talk about a culture of institutions
and the rule of law."
« Previous1Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Climate-of-intolerance-in-West-Bank-activists-say-2813461.php#ixzz1kzeT07gY