Israel arrests Palestinian rights lawyer after anti-Abbas protest

Independent Commission for Human Rights says Farid al-Atrash was arrested at an Israeli checkpoint east of Jerusalem.

In this file photo from November 2017, Palestinian human rights activist Farid al-Atrash gives a press conference as part of Amnesty International's 'Human rights day' [File: Eric Feferberg/AFP]

A Palestinian human rights lawyer has been arrested by Israeli forces after taking part in a protest in the occupied West Bank against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, his rights group said.

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) said in a statement that Farid al-Atrash was arrested early on Sunday at an Israeli checkpoint east of Jerusalem while returning from a protest against the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, where the PA is based.

It said al-Atrash was transferred to Israel’s Hadassah Hospital and called for his immediate release from Israeli police custody.

According to the commission, al-Atrash was on his way to Bethlehem from Ramallah when the arrest took place.

Issa Amro, a prominent Palestinian activist and friend of al-Atrash, said he was released from hospital hours later and was still being questioned by Israeli authorities. It is unclear why he was admitted to hospital.

Neither the Israeli military nor the police made immediate comments.

Both Amro and al-Atrash have been arrested by Israel in the past for organising and taking part in protests against its military occupation of the West Bank.

But Amro said al-Atrash had recently focused his efforts on protesting against the PA over Nizar Banat, an activist who died shortly after being violently arrested by Palestinian security forces last month.

He said another rights lawyer, Mohannad Karajah, who is defending protesters arrested by the PA, was briefly detained by Palestinian authorities on Sunday.

Amro himself was arrested by the PA last month and held overnight, days before Banat died in custody. The PA does not comment publicly on arrests.

Israel and the PA coordinate security in the West Bank in order to suppress the Palestinian group, Hamas, and other groups that both view as a threat.

That policy is deeply unpopular among Palestinians and is one of several longstanding grievances fuelling the recent protests.

Thousands of Palestinians have joined demonstrations in recent weeks against the PA, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Palestinian demonstrators carry posters with pictures of Nizar Banat that read, ‘a martyr for saying the truth in front of an ignorant sultan’ and a banner that reads ‘Abbas, leave,’ during a rally protesting against Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah [Nasser Nasser/AP Photo]

The PA has grown increasingly unpopular and dictatorial in recent years, even as Western countries continue to see it as a key partner in the moribund peace process.

This arrest comes amid a violent crackdown on Palestinians by Israeli forces, including arbitrary arrests and the targeting of demonstrations and rallies against discriminatory Israeli policies and the establishment of illegal Israeli settlements.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies