PA extends remand of Zakaria Zubeidi, transfers case to military court

12:00 Jun 27 2012 Jericho prison (Palestinian Authority)

PA extends remand of former Palestinian militant-turned-theater director

Former Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade commander Zakaria Zubeidi accused of failing to prevent attack on home of Jenin governor.

by Amira Haas for Haaretz

Former Palestinian militant leader Zakaria Zubeidi plans to petition the Palestinian High Court against his continued detention by the Palestinian Authority and plans to transfer his case to military prosecutors.

Zubeidi, a former Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades leader, was arrested in early May in Jenin. His arrest was part of a sweep conducted by the Palestinian Authority's security forces following an assault on the home of Jenin District Governor Kadura Musa.

While Musa was unhurt in the attack, he subsequently had a heart attack and died. In the wake of the incident, the PA began to round up dozens in a wave of arrests.

Zubeidi, who currently works as the director of Jenin's Freedom Theater and for the Palestinian Ministry for Prisoner Affairs, has been in custody for some 45 days. His family and colleagues have not been allowed to visit him, nor has he been allowed to meet privately with his lawyer.

Zubeidi's older brother and colleagues from the Freedom Theater attempted to visit him on Tuesday in Jericho, but were turned away, while his attorney - who was allowed to meet with him two weeks ago for only one minute - saw him at length last Tuesday (though in the presence of his interrogators).

Farid Hawash, was allowed to meet with him two weeks ago for only one minute.

According to Hawash, Zubeidi stands accused of failing to prevent a crime, with Palestinian authorities claiming he had advance knowledge of the assault of Musa's home. He is also accused of possessing some 30 M-16 assault rifles.

Zubeidi has rejected these allegations.

Zubeidi's remand was extended on Tuesday for an additional 15 days. In addition, his case was transferred to the Palestinian military prosecutors' office.

Zubeidi's attorney Hawash called the move illegal, as Zubeidi is a civilian, and vowed to challenge it in the Palestinian High Court.

As with many of the other men arrested in the wake of the assault on Musa's home, the request for Zubeidi's remand described him as belonging to an unspecified "criminal gang."

While many of the other detainees have reportedly been tortured, a complaint taken from Zubeidi by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) indicated that he had not been tortured, although he did complain about the lack of medical treatment and the fact that his family members were not allowed to visit.

Of the roughly twenty residents of the Jenin refugee camp who were detained in the sweep, seven have been released. Meanwhile, others have been added to the wanted list, after their detained friends phoned them from prison asking them to hand over the weapons in their possession.

The PA has been holding detainees from Jenin and Nablus, both located in the northern West Bank, in prisons located in Jericho and near Hebron, in the southern West Bank, apparently in an attempt to prevent protest demonstrations from being staged outside the prisons' walls.

The ICHR has alleged that insufficient explanations have been given for the wave of arrests, which began in the wake of the shooting but quickly expanded to include people with no connections to the suspects. The organization said it seemed to represent a form of collective punishment.

The detainees have had their remands extended for 15-day periods, as required by Palestinian law. However, they have been held at facilities belonging to the Palestinian Preventative Security forces, whereas the law limits the authority of that group to detain people for up to 24 hours, after which they are meant to be transferred to the responsibility of the Palestinian Prosecutor's Office.

Sources from Fatah and Jenin speculated that the arrests were connected to power struggles within the Palestinian security apparatus, where new commanders have taken over positions in recent months.
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