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MADA calls for immediate release of journalist Mamdouh Hamamreh

(MADA/IFEX) - 22 October 2010 - The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) calls on the relevant authorities to take immediate action to release Alquds TV correspondent Mamdouh Hamamreh, who is 26 years old. The journalist is from Bethlehem city in the south of the West Bank, and he has been in a civilian prison in Bethlehem since 19 September 2010.

Hamamreh's suffering has began on 1 September 2010, when a group of individuals belonging to the Palestinian intelligence service came to his home and took him to the intelligence headquarters in Bethlehem.

After three days he was released after being questioned about his work in Alquds TV, but they asked him to return on 18 September 2010, but he went in the next day because could not go on the 18th, and they arrested him upon his arrival.

The next day, Hamamreh was sent to the public prosecutor in Bethlehem, where they decided to detain him for two days in order to complete the investigation, and two days later he was sent to Court once again to be charged with libel and slander against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 of 1960, which is applied in the West Bank. The charge was based on the claim of the Palestinian intelligence service that they found a picture that depicted the Palestinian president beside the picture of Maomoun Beek (who is a traitor) in a Bab Aharah serial, on Hamamreh's account on the social website Facebook.

Hamamreh said that he did not upload the image which depicted the President on his Facebook account, the picture was sent to him by an unknown person named Nadim Qaisi. Hamamreh's father said that members of the intelligence service came to his home on the evening of 23 September 2010 and they confiscated his work laptop and his family's computer, and they then forced Hamamreh to give them the password to his Facebook account.

The Court approved the prosecution's request to extend his detention for 15 days pending an investigation. After the Court's decision, Hamamreh's lawyer, in cooperation with MADA's legal unit lawyer Sana Aranki, requested a release on bail, but the court dismissed the request. Another request was dismissed on 28 September 2010.

Fifteen days later on 5 October 2010, the Court issued a decision to extend his detention again for another fifteen days to complete the investigation. Hamamreh said that he was only interrogated on the first day of his detention. The Court extended his detention for the third time on 20 October 2010.

On 11 October 2010, Sana Aranki filed a complaint with the Attorney General; it was registered under number 4527/2010. Aranki also met the Attorney General and explained to him all the excesses and the circumstances concerning Hamamreh's arrest. She also told him that his visitation rights were revoked after his arrest. Unfortunately Aranki's attempt did not work. When she went to review the Attorney General's decision, they told her that he refused the complaint, and he left the decision to the Court. In addition they also refused to give her a formal letter stating his decision.

Aranki emphasized that Hamamreh's arrest and his continued detention are incompatible with the Palestinian law for the following reasons:

1. When the Palestinian Intelligence service arrested the journalist, they violated article 11 in the Palestinian Amended Basic Law, which says:
"It is unlawful to arrest, search, imprison, restrict the freedom, or prevent the movement of any person, except by judicial order in accordance with the provisions of the law. The law shall specify the period of pre arrest detention. Imprisonment or detention shall only be permitted in places that are subject to laws related to the organization of prisons."

2. Hamamreh's charges of libel and slander on the basis of article 188, as well as the charge of contempt on the basis of article 190 to a Palestinian citizen are invalid, according to article 364 in the Jordanian penal code no. 16 of 1960.

3. The Court's continuous extension of the journalist's detention with the pretext of completing the investigation is not justified, because Hamamreh confirmed that he was only interrogated once, on the first day of his detention.

4. The charge of "lengthening the tongue" of the President on the basis of article 195 which specialized in harming the dignity of the king is not valid, because the system in Palestine is presidential and not royal. And the law is clear and applied in a literal context.

The MADA center emphasized again the need to release journalist Mamdouh Hamamreh immediately, and called for the halting of arrests of journalists in the occupied Palestinian territories. MADA also called for the respect of the right to freedom of expression which is guaranteed in article 19 of the Palestinian Basic Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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