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Stockholm- Skyline condemns last Thursday's ruling by the Magistrate's Court in Nablus, northern West Bank, sentencing Palestinian journalist and producer "Abdul Rahman Al-Zaher" to three months in prison, stressing that such practices constitute an unjustified violation of press freedom and the right to freedom of expression as stipulated in international law.

Saturday, Skyline says that the case against which the Palestinian journalist and producer Abdul Rahman Zaher" is charged is based on three allegations that go to the heart of his professional journalistic work and restrict freedom of opinion and expression, which is experiencing a worrying decline in the regions of the West Bank.

According to Skyline's follow-up, the Palestinian prosecutor has charged "Zaher" with spreading "information that stirs up racist strife" through the electronic network, and"dissemnating different news by any means of various communication with the intent of causing panic" and "defaming the Palestinian Authority". The court acquitted Zaher of the first and second charges and ordered his imprisonment based on the third charge.

Skyline points out that the backstory of the case dates back to August 2020, when Preventive Security Forces detained "Zaher" for 35 days and then released him on September 21, 2020, on financial bail of 5,000 Jordanian dinars, to be rearrested by the Israeli authorities. After his release from Preventive Security Prison, he was interrogated on the same charges he was charged with when he was arrested by Preventive Security. Zaher remained in Israeli prisons for nearly a month until he was released in November 2020 without any charges being brought against him, according to a statement by Lawyers for Justice.

Skyline quoted the statements of journalist and presenter "Zaher" published by several media outlets after the announcement of the verdict. Zaher stated, "We had confidence in the independence of the judiciary, but after a personal experience, the confidence was shaken, unfortunately, the one who governs dictates his will rather than the judiciary and this is an important issue that must be addressed; we do not have confidence in our fairness when we go to the judiciary. On the last day of my arrest, I was not presented with a list related to this accusation, and there is no evidence or suspicion, and the investigative path was far from this accusation."

He added: "No one has asked me about any publication, article or video of him in connection with the accusation. The court's path went one way and the decision was issued the other way." He pointed out that, "I was just present and listening. The judge was talking to the prosecutor and the defense attorney, and they brought witnesses from the Preventive Security Agency to identify me or prove that this person was the one who was arrested. The court was a procedural session."

Moreover, Skyline highlights that such decisions and rulings seriously violate the rules of international law that guarantee freedom of opinion and expression and peaceful assembly without restriction or prosecution. These practices violate the set of basic rights stipulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which affirmed that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of belief and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium's of his choice".

For its part, Skyline stresses that the negative role of the Palestinian government towards the practices of the executive bodies against freedom of opinion and expression - especially the attacks on peaceful assemblies - and the lack of legal control over the executive bodies, as well as the failure of the judiciary to implement its decrees on freedom of expression, and the arbitrariness in imposing sentences on activists provided a tacit cover for the security service to continue their violations, notwithstanding the blatant violations of the rules and the Palestinian Basic Law that guarantee freedom of opinion and expression

At the end of its statement, the Skyline calls on the Palestinian government to take urgent measures to release detainees for political reasons or for expressing opinions, to halt the relevant trials, to ensure the prevention of abuses of peaceful gatherings by the security services, to investigate complaints of torture, and to hold those responsible for violations accountable.