PA Crackdown on Hamas-Aligned Students

May 11, 2015  

The Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to crack down on Hamas supporters within its borders, and is also targeting student leaders of a Hamas-aligned group at Birzeit University

The crackdown began after a Hamas victory and Fatah defeat in student elections at the Palestinian university last month.  

Al Jazeera reported Sunday that PA security forces quickly began detaining and questioning students associated with the winning Hamas group. Two representatives were arrested, while over a dozen more were interrogated. 

One student, Jihad Saleem described his ordeal to Al Jazeera, recounting how he was “blindfolded, deprived of sleep, held in stress positions and denied communication with his lawyer” for 24 hours, before being released.

“They wanted to know how the Islamic bloc won the elections…how Hamas’ supporters had funded the election campaign on the campus. They wanted me to describe the structure of the student organization, and whether I had connections to leadership in Gaza.”

“I told my interrogators that it was my right to be politically active and that it was beyond their mandate to detain me,” Saleem added.

While PA security forces confirmed “students were detained,” they did not specify on what allegations, only stressing all actions were in accordance with the law. 

“We do not, have not, and we will not detain anyone – student or otherwise – for their political affiliation. We respect freedom of expression. Arrests are made strictly according to the law,” spokesman Adnan al-Damiri said during a news conference in Ramallah last Thursday.

“We detain individuals if we believe they are engaged in criminal activity, whether it is planning or executing armed operations, managing illegal financial networks, possession of harmful materials – weapons, drugs – or incitement of hatred or violence.” 

According to a Human Rights Watch report, 25 students from various Palestinian universities in the PA-controlled area have been arrested, detained or summoned for questioning since the April 22 elections. 

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