Hamas sets hefty bail for Fatah activists it arrested at Gaza opposition rally
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Published: September 1, 2007
He says in a sarcastic tone...
Shouldn't the countries that support Hamas exercise their influence and help secure the release of these prisioners as a "good will gesture" to Abbas in or help foster peace between Hamas and Fatah and peace in the Middle East? If Israel is releasing murderers and murderers-in-training shouldn't Hamas release a bunch of protesters or at least reduce the bail amount. I sure Hamas could have them recite a few chapters from the Koran and promise to be nice.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Hamas authorities on Saturday set a hefty bail for the release of the Fatah activists it arrested following a Gaza protest rally, in yet another crackdown against its vanquished rival.
Hamas overthrew Fatah in five days of fighting in June, overtaking the Gaza Strip, and has since been attempting to establish its authority and thwart any forms of dissent.
On Friday, Hamas men violently dispersed a crowd of Fatah protesters, firing in the air and beating demonstrators. Some 20 people were wounded in the clashes, including two French journalists and two children, according to doctors and witnesses. Scores of protesters were arrested.
The violence began at the end of a Fatah prayer session it held outdoors to protest against Hamas, which it says is persecuting its members in Hamas-controlled mosques.
The PLO Executive Committee, a top Fatah decision-making body, was set to meet later Saturday in Ramallah upon the request of Abbas to discuss Friday's clashes in Gaza. It was expected to denounce Hamas for its aggression against the Fatah protesters.
Yes, yes, denounce. But PLO Executive Committe doesn't seem to mind kassam rockets raining down on Israel.
Today in Africa & Middle East
Fatah officials said 170 of its members remained in Hamas custody Saturday. Some of those released emerged from their arrest with their heads shaved — a humiliating gesture.
Sounds worse than Abu-Ghrab and Guantanimo to me. Quick call HRW and the UN this can continue no more! How much can they take?
Hamas said it released most of those arrested and that only about 20 remained in detention.
But Hamas demanded a 1,000 shekel ($243, €178) bail for the release, about a month's salary in the impoverished Gaza Strip, where 60 percent live under the poverty line.
"I consider this a theft. What is the crime I committed?" said Ahmad Siam, 33, whose father paid the sum for his freedom. "I didn't commit a crime to pay that money."
Ihab al-Ghusain, a Hamas security spokesman, said the money would be reimbursed in six months if the offenders pledged not to resume "rioting or illegal activities."
"This is a legal measure. It is a way to bring the person to reconsider their action. Money might be the way to prevent these chaotic acts," he said.
The legal system in Gaza stopped functioning after Hamas took over the coastal strip in June. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fired the Hamas-led government, formed a new government of moderates in the West Bank and ordered judges, prosecutors and police to stop cooperating with Gaza's new rulers.
Last week, Hamas appointed its own prosecution team in Gaza, which Saturday imposed the hefty bail.
Ibrahim Abu Naja, a Fatah official in Gaza, said his group would not pay up.
"This is a serious precedent," he said. "The decisions adopted are illegal. This is tantamount to occupation (laws)," he said, referring to Israel's rule over the Gaza Strip, which ended in 2005.
Families of some detainees said they could not afford to pay the bail, and said they would organize another rally if their sons were not released.
Khalil Abu Shamala, a human rights activist in Gaza, said both the detention and the bail demand were illegal.
"The whole legal system in Gaza is destroyed and defunct," he said. "On what basis can they arrest, detain, question and then set bail?"
Friday's protests also erupted in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, and were broken up by Hamas men firing in the air and hurling stun grenades into the crowd.
An Egyptian man on Egypt's side of the Rafah border crossing was struck by a stray bullet from the clashes, according to hospital officials there.
Issa Said Atya Ibrahim, 36, was struck while standing in front of his house in the el-Barahma village, some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) north of the crossing, said Emad Kharboush, head of the emergency room at el-Arish hospital. Ibrahim underwent surgery and was in stable condition, Kharboush said.
Also Saturday, thousands of flag-waving Hamas supporters gathered at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to demand it be reopened. Hamas said some 15,000 were participating in the rally and its gunmen were firing in the air to keep the crowds away from the terminal. The border, Gaza's only gateway to the outside world, has been shut since the Hamas takeover. Hamas charges that Abbas' government does not want the crossing opened because that would help the Islamic group hold on to power in Gaza.
"This is a peaceful protest to voice our message that we are looking for freedom," said Issa Mashar a top Hamas leader in Rafah. "We came to send a message from the people who are suffering."
Associated Press Writer Ibrahim Barzak contributed to this report from Rafah, Gaza Strip