From Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
A Palestinian journalist just released from a Hebron jail has accused the Palestinian Authority (PA) security authorities of mistreating him and incarcerating him in “difficult conditions” for over a month.
Awadh Rajoub told reporters Friday that he was placed in solitary confinement for more than 15 days and that he had to sleep in a rancid cell, using his own shoes as a pillow.
“At one point they covered my head with a bad-smelling sack, apparently in order to prevent me from seeing people they didn’t want me to see.
“But I heard people being tortured and I know that several people were transferred to hospital or sent to their homes due to torture.”
Rajoub, who works for the Arabic service of al-Jazeera.net, was charged with writing inflammatory reports and undermining vital national interests.
“They confronted me with a huge pile of news reports I had written. They thought that these reports would indict me. They simply had no idea about how the press functions in a free society.”
Rajoub lamented the state of press freedom in the Occupied Territories.
“When journalists are arrested by security personnel in broad daylight and threatened to be prosecuted by a military tribunal, it means something wrong is taking place.”
The 30-year-old Hebron journalist described his incarceration as “illegal and immoral,” saying that the security agencies had no right to arrest journalists.
Rajoub said interrogators had berated him for interviewing and quoting political leaders and intellectuals whose views they considered detrimental to Palestinian interests and libelous to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.
“I told them that this was part of my job as a journalist. I explained to them that as a journalist I am required to report all news and views regardless of my personal opinion.
“But they wouldn’t understand this language.”
PA officials initially claimed that Rajoub’s arrest had nothing to do with his profession as a journalist, prompting his family to call them “big liars.”
Last week, Rajoub’s family petitioned the High Court in Ramallah to force the security authorities to release him on the ground that military courts had no jurisdiction in civilian cases.
Asked whether he is going to exercise “self censorship” and stay on the “safe side” in light of his ordeal, Rajoub said he now realized that “nothing can be taken for granted” and that “press freedom under an authoritarian regime is a fantasy.”