New York, February 26, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to heed a High Court order and release journalist Tariq Abu Zaid immediately.
A four-person special military court in Nablus sentenced Abu Zaid, a correspondent who
reported on camera for Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV, to 18 months in
prison on February 16 on charges of "undermining the status of the
authority, and resisting the public policy of the Palestinian Authority,"
his lawyer, Bassam Karajeh, told CPJ. Karajeh said authorities have not
responded to demands that they explain why the journalist was tried in a
military court. Abu Zaid has been held at Al-Junied prison in Nablus since he was first arrested in August
According to Karajeh, Abu Zaid was arrested by the Palestinian Military
Intelligence Service in August 2009 for working with Al-Aqsa TV, which the PA banned
in the West Bank in September 2007. He was
never indicted. The Palestinian High Court of Justice in Ramallah ordered his
immediate release on January 12 but the ruling has not been implemented. Abu
Zeid' family and the lawyer went to Al-Junied
prison with the High Court's release order but were told by security officers
that Abu Zaid was being charged by the
military judiciary for reporting for a news outlet that has been banned by the
The defense team has also
sent the court order to the Intelligence Department and to the Council of
Ministers but no action has been taken to release the journalist, according to
“The Palestinian Authority must comply with the High Court’s decision and release
Tariq Abu Zaid immediately,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “He has
not received due process and the authorities have not explained why as a
civilian he was tried in a military court.
Abu Zaid’s lawyer called the military court’s decision illegal since “according
to Palestinian law, it is not the mandate of the military judiciary to consider
his case” as a civilian. “Furthermore the High Court had issued a decision to release him, so his arrest is unlawful,”
control of the Gaza Strip while the Palestinian Authority retained Fatah rule
in the West Bank in June 2007. That month,
members of the PA’s Presidential Guard attacked
Al-Aqsa TV’s office in Ramallah, and security forces shut down the station
altogether in the West Bank by September. Hamas also attacked the official Palestinian broadcasting outlets, Palestine
TV and Voice of Palestine, that June.