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IDF arrests two employees of Freedom Theater in Jenin

03:30 Jul 27 2011 Jenin

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By Amira Hass and The Associated Press

Israel Defense Forces soldiers on Wednesday morning arrested two men involved in running the Freedom Theater in the West Bank city of Jenin.

The arrested men were Adnan Naghnaghiye, the theater's director, and Bilal Saadi, a member of the theater's board.

The Freedom Theater was founded by Juliano Mer-Khamis, an Israeli-Palestinian actor who had a Jewish mother and a Muslim father and who was murdered outside the theater in April.

The killer has not been apprehended. It's unclear whether Wednesday's arrests were linked to the case.

The arrest operation left broken windows in one of the theater's two adjacent buildings.

According to theater officials, around 50 IDF soldiers arrived at the theater around 3:30 a.m. Naghnaghiye lived at the theater and was arrested there. Saadi was arrested around the same time at his home in the Jenin refugee camp.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said that two Palestinians were arrested in Jenin on Wednesday. The IDF denied that the theater was targeted but offered no further details.

Theater officials were shocked by the manner of the arrests. They said that the IDF could have sent summons to the arrestees and called them in for questioning as is routinely done through coordination mechanisms with the Palestinian Authority.


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The following press release was sent out by the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp:

Special Forces of the Israeli Army attacked the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp at approximately 03:30 this morning. Ahmad Nasser Matahen, a night guard and technician student at the theatre woke up by heavy blocks of stone being hurled at the entrance of the theatre.

As he opened the door he found masked and heavily armed Israeli Special Forces around the theatre. Ahmed says that the army threw heavy blocks of stone at the theatre, “they told me to open the door to the theatre. They told me to raise my hands and forced me to take my pants down. I thought my time had come, that they would kill me. My brother that was with me was handcuffed.“

The location manager of The Freedom Theatre, Adnan Naghnaghiye was arrested and taken away to an unknown location together with Bilal Saadi, a member of the board of The Freedom Theatre. When the general manager of the theatre Jacob Gough from UK and the co-founder of the theatre Jonatan Stanczak from Sweden arrived to the scene they were forced to squat next to a family with four small children surrounded by about 50 heavily armed Israeli soldiers.

Jonatan says: “Whenever we tried to tell them that they are attacking a cultural venue and arresting members of the theatre we were told to shut up and they threatened to kick us, I tried to contact the civil administration of the army to clarify the matter but the person in charge hung up on me.“
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