Adib al-Atrash, a stringer for Palestine Post, was arrested by Israeli security forces at dawn from his family home in the West Bank city of Hebron, his fiancée Shatha Zghayer told CPJ, confirming local media reports. Zghayer told CPJ she does not know why he was arrested.
Al-Atrash is being held in administrative detention in Ofer prison south of Ramallah, his lawyer Nimr Abu Omar told CPJ. Under administrative detention procedures, authorities may hold detainees for six months without charge or trial and extend the detention an unlimited number of times.
On September 20, 2016, al-Atrash’s detention was renewed for a further three months, Abu Omar said. He told CPJ it was not possible to know whether al-Atrash was arrested for his work as a journalist because the case against him is in a secret file to which he doesn’t have access.
CPJ asked the Israel Defense Forces about the arrests of 10 Palestinian journalists, including al-Atrash, and whether the arrests were linked to their journalism.
In an emailed response on October 10, 2016, its Public Appeals Office said al-Atrash and other journalists were detained due to activity in terror organizations including Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and that their detention was a preventative measure taken to neutralize a security threat that could not be addressed by criminal trial because of classified information. The statement did not specify exact legal charges against any of the journalists or in which organization the individuals were suspected of involvement.
Al-Atrash worked as a Hebron-based stringer for Palestine Post, a Palestinian outlet that shares content via Facebook and Twitter, an employee told CPJ via Facebook messenger. The outlet’s reporting includes updates on Israel Defense Forces activity, including images, and shares content from other sites. The employee, who did not provide a name, did not respond to further questions about whether al-Atrash’s arrest may be linked with his work, or his role at the outlet.
Al-Atrash previously worked as a media researcher for the Ro’ya Center for Studies and Research, a think tank based in Hamas-ruled Gaza. The think tank, which describes itself as an independent institute dedicated to research in the Arab world, particularly Palestine/Israel, did not respond to CPJ’s telephone and emailed requests for comment on September 25, 2016.
On May 2, 2016, two months before his arrest, al-Atrash was detained and questioned by Palestinian intelligence services for several hours, Palestinian press freedom monitor MADA reported. Zghayer said al-Atrash was asked about his studies, his work for Ro’ya and his political affiliation. The West Bank-based Fatah movement and Hamas in Gaza are long-standing political rivals, and harass and question journalists and activists who criticize their rule.