Hamas is threatening to jail three Palestinian peace activists for holding a video call with Israelis in April. The activists, who belong to the Gaza Youth Committee, were charged by Palestinian military prosecutors last week with “weakening revolutionary spirit” for participating in a peace-building initiative called “Skype With Your Enemy”.
Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a Gaza-based group representing them, said the three face long prison terms in addition to hard labour if they are convicted. Some 200 people participated in the call, which allowed young Israelis to learn more about conditions in Gaza.
But Hamas’ Interior Ministry said in April any communication with Israel was “a crime punishable by law and a betrayal of our people and its sacrifices”. It responded by arresting Rami Aman, the leader of the Gaza Youth Committee, and several others who had participated in the call. Aman, who remains in prison, is one of the three men against whom charges have been laid.
Human rights groups attacked Hamas’ move as “outrageous”. The case “is part of a pattern of Hamas authorities arbitrarily arresting activists for their peaceful free expression,” said Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch director for Israel and Palestine. He also attacked the decision to try the activists in a military court. “The natural court for civilians is a civilian court. Period,” he said, adding that achieving justice in a military court amounts to “mission impossible”. LFI chair Steve McCabe wrote to foreign secretary Dominic Raab in April urging the government to condemn Hamas and work to secure the activists’ release.
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