Arrest of Arab leader, gag order are protested


WASHINGTON (JTA) — A number of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian groups are calling on Israel to release the director of an Israeli-Arab umbrella body whose arrest is under a gag order.

Nine groups signed the statement appearing on the Electronic Intifada Web site calling for the release of Ammer Makhoul, who directs Ittijah-the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations.

Makhoul was arrested before dawn Thursday; Israeli authorities have imposed a gag order on his arrest.

EIectronic Intifada, which is U.S.-based, would not be subject to such a gag order. One of the signatories, Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights group based in Ramallah, also posted the statement on its Web site.

According to the statement, 16 security agents and police raided Makhoul’s Haifa apartment, confiscating computers and cell phones belonging to him, his wife and his two daughters. Ittijah’s office also was raided. The reasons for the arrest and raids are not known.

Makhoul was remanded for six days and was denied access to a lawyer for 48 hours, according to EIectronic Intifada.

The statement said that Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai had signed an April 21 order banning Makhoul from leaving the country for two months because his "exit poses a serious threat to the security of the state." The nine groups said that "as Makhoul’s arrest warrant and travel ban order are based on emergency regulations and ‘secret’ information that is never disclosed to the defense, the undersigned consider them to be arbitrary political actions in violation of fundamental due process principles and human rights standards."

NGO Monitor, a watchdog of nongovernmental organizations that are highly critical of Israel, says Ittijah played a "prominent" role at the United Nations Durban conference on racism in 2001, which devolved into anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate fest. According to NGO Monitor, Ittijah will not accept aid conditioned on non-affiliation with terrorist groups.

In addition to Addameer, other signatories include the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, based in the Gaza Strip, and the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.

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