Contact: Deanna Congileo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Atlanta, Ga….The Carter Center denounces the recent detention of Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Dr. Aziz Dweik, as well as the arrests of three other legislators and one former minister, who are members of the speaker's Hamas-affiliated faction.
Dr. Dweik was taken into custody on Thursday, Jan. 19, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. No charges have been filed, but an Israeli military court sentenced him to six months "administrative detention" on Jan. 24. In the early hours of Jan. 20, Israeli forces arrested another PLC member from the Change and Reform bloc, Khaled Thwaib, near Bethlehem. Then, on Jan. 23, former minister Khaled Abu Rafah and legislator Mohammed Totah were arrested. They had been taking refuge in the International Committee of the Red Cross compound in East Jerusalem for over a year, after the cancellation of their Jerusalem residency permits. Finally, in the early morning hours of Jan. 24, Israeli forces arrested PLC member Abdul Jaber al-Foqaha' at his home in Ramallah.
The PLC has not met in full session since 2006. The reactivation of the PLC, hoped for in the coming weeks, is an important milestone in the ongoing process of Palestinian reconciliation and forthcoming elections.
"These men are guilty of nothing more than winning a parliamentary seat in an open and honest election, which was monitored by The Carter Center in 2006," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. "The detention of Speaker Dweik and other Palestinian legislators appears to be an attempt to hamstring the PLC in order to prevent Palestinian reconciliation and a prospective election later this year. We urge that the parliamentarians and former minister be released. International law prohibits Israel, as the occupying power, from forcibly transferring Abu Rafah and Totah from Jerusalem. The continued use of 'administrative detention' also is of great concern."
Twenty-seven PLC members are in Israeli jails, including 24 from the speaker's faction. The 2006 elections gave the Change and Reform bloc a majority of seats in the PLC. The Center's assessment of the electoral process was positive and found that the results represented the genuine will of Palestinian voters. These arrests are a transparent effort to subvert democracy among the Palestinians.