The Palestinian authorities must immediately drop criminal defamation charges against Ahmad Awartani, a 25-year-old mechanical engineer from the Palestinian village of Anabta in the West Bank, said Amnesty International today ahead of his court hearing on 15 May.
Ahmad Awartani has been detained in Jericho prison since 21 April on charges of defamation relating to a Facebook post in which he wrote, that he and residents of his village of Anabta do not pledge loyalty to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. A court in Jericho has extended his pre-trial detention twice since then, most recently on 9 May for an additional seven days.
“The prosecution of Ahmad Awartani is the latest example of the Palestinian authorities’ use of draconian defamation laws to criminalize freedom of expression. For a harmless Facebook post Ahmad Awartani has spent more than three weeks in pre-trial detention, showing just how hell-bent the authorities have become on silencing critics,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Regional Director at Amnesty International.