A Palestinian electric engineer from the West Bank is facing up to one year in prison and a heavy fine. Ibrahim Al-Masri, who was arrested by the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces on June 19, is the latest victim of the PA’s continued crackdown on its political opponents and dissenters.
Al-Masri’s lawyer said that his client was taken into custody under the PA’s new controversial Cyber Crime Law, which targets Palestinian social media users. His family said they learned about his detention more than 24 hours after he was taken into custody. They pointed out that Al-Masri was arrested for posting comments on Facebook criticizing the PA security forces for beating him during a demonstration in Ramallah last month. The demonstration was organized by Palestinian activists to protest the economic sanctions imposed by the PA government on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
The Cyber Crime Law, which has drawn sharp criticism from Palestinian human rights and media organizations, states that, “Anyone who creates or manages or an information technology platform that aims to publish news that would endanger the integrity of the Palestinian state, the public order or the internal or external security of the State, shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of at least one year and no more than 5,000 Jordanian dinars (approximately $7,000) or by a combination of both punishments.”
The law effectively authorizes the PA security forces to arrest Palestinians for their activities on social media, especially if their postings are deemed “offensive” to senior Palestinian officials or harmful to the “integrity of the Palestinian state” which, one might note, remains to be established.