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Palestinian police officers are seen in Hebron, in the West Bank, on April 7, 2020. Police recently attacked and arrested journalist Anas Hawari at a checkpoint. (Reuters/Mussa Qawasma)

Palestinian police assault and arrest journalist Anas Hawari

May 21, 2020 10:40 AM ET

On May 15, 2020, Palestinian police officers manning a checkpoint in the West Bank town of Anabta pulled over, assaulted, and arrested Anas Hawari, a reporter for the Hamas-affiliated Quds News Network, according to a report by his employer, a Facebook post by his lawyer, Mohannad Karajeh, and a report by the Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, a regional press freedom group.

The next day, the public prosecutor extended Hawari’s detention by 48 hours and charged him with insulting a state employee, resisting a security officer, and violating the region’s COVID-19 emergency lockdown, according to the Quds News Network. On May 18, a court in Tulkarm, a nearby city, extended Hawari’s detention by 15 days, citing an ongoing investigation, according to his employer and Skeyes.

However, on May 21, authorities released Hawari on a bail of 300 Jordanian dinars ($200), according to news reports and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

He is scheduled to appear in court on July 8, according to reports. If convicted of insulting a state employee and resisting a state officer, Hawari could face up to two and half years in jail, according to the Palestinian penal code. CPJ could not determine the potential penalties for violating the COVID-19 lockdown.

Karajeh told Skeyes that Hawari denies the charges.

Hawari’s sister, who was in the car when the incident took place and whose name was not disclosed, told the Quds News Network that police officers claimed that there were 10 people in the car when in fact there were only three. She said Hawari objected to the officers’ accusations, and a police officer then slapped him in the face, and five officers hit him with their rifle butts, threw water bottles at him, and poured coffee on him.

The officers told Hawari’s sister and her husband to leave, and then detained Hawari, she told the Quds News Network.

The journalist’s lawyer told Skeyes that Hawari lost a tooth in the attack, sustained injuries to his head and face requiring stitches, and said that police tore his trousers. Karajeh added that police seized Hawari’s phone, which contains some of his journalistic work, and have not returned it.

CPJ emailed the Palestinian Interior Ministry for comment, but did not receive any reply.