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PA police suppress protest against decision to try prisoners linked to Basel al-Araj

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Palestinian police violently suppressed a demonstration Sunday afternoon in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, after locals gathered in protest of a case against slain activist Basel al-Araj and five other Palestinians who were imprisoned alongside him last year by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Several protesters were detained and several others have been injured  — including Mahmoud al-Araj, Basel’s father — in the clashes, which were ongoing as of Sunday afternoon. Police assaulted and preventing journalists from covering the event and some reported that their equipment had been broken.
Basel al-Araj, Muhammad Harb, Haitham Siyaj, Muhammad al-Salamin, Seif al-Idrissi, and Ali Dar al-Sheikh, had launched a hunger strike after they were detained without charges or explanation by Palestinian security forces in April last year.
Upon their release, Harb, Siyaj, al-Salamin, and al-Idrissi were immediately detained by Israeli forces, eliciting outrage among Palestinians over the PA’s policy of security coordination with Israel.
Al-Araj remained in hiding, and after several months on the run, Israeli forces ambushed him last week in a home near Ramallah and shot him dead, in what was branded as an “execution” and an “assassination” of the 31-year-old, who was beloved in Palestinian activist circles and praised by many as a freedom fighter, an intellectual, and a theorist.
The killing has evoked a strong emotional response among activist youth, who took to the streets on Sunday after the Ramallah district court announced that al-Araj’s fellow prisoners in the case would still be tried in court, despite the fact that three of them remained held in Israeli custody. According to local outlet PNN, Ali Dar al-Sheikh was not in Israeli custody and was present at the court session in Ramallah on Sunday.
In regards to the charges brought against al-Araj, the court did not explicitly say they had been dropped, but rather said that the case against him was “terminated” due to his death.
As of 2:30 p.m, at least 11 protesters were injured by Palestinian police, including the father of Basel al-Araj, Mahmoud, who was hospitalized. He told reporters that he would launch a hunger strike if all Palestinians detained during the march were not immediately released. Six protesters who had been detained were then released.
PA forces were heavily deployed in the area, suppressing the demonstration with tear gas and assaulting protesters with batons.
Among those who were assaulted by police were identified by witnesses as Palestine TV reporter Jihad Barkat, cameraman for Jordanian outlet Roya TV Muhammad Abu Shusha, Roya TV reporter Hafith Abu Sabra, reporter for Ramallah-based Watan agency Ahmad Milhem, lawyer Farid al-Atrash, and Omar Assaf.
This is a developing story.

Lawyer Farid al-Atrash

Mahmoud al-Araj

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