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Members of critical West-Bank theatre arrested, tortured

A scene from a student production of the Freedom Theater in Jenin
A scene from a student production of the Freedom Theater in Jenin

Freedom Theater

(Human Rights Watch/IFEX) - Jerusalem, July 27, 2012 - The Palestinian Authority and Israeli military authorities should both end abuses against members of the West Bank-based Freedom Theater, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) arrested the theater company's co-founder, Zakaria Zubeidi, in May 2012, held him incommunicado, and allegedly tortured him. It arrested his defense lawyer in July. Israeli authorities arrested the company's artistic director, Nabil al-Ra'ee, in June, held him incommunicado, and allegedly subjected him to physical and psychological ill-treatment that might have amounted to torture, Human Rights Watch said. Zubeidi's lawyer and al-Ra'ee were recently released, but all three men still face charges. Al-Ra'ee's next military court hearing is scheduled for July 29.

“Israel and the Palestinian Authority are trampling on the rights of Freedom Theater's staff,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “A theater should be able to offer critical and provocative work without fearing that its staff will be arrested and abused.”

The arbitrary arrests and detentions should cease, and allegations of mistreatment should be investigated, Human Rights Watch said.

The theater's director and co-founder, Juliano Mer-Khamis, an Israeli citizen and activist, was killed in April 2011. Since the killing, Israeli occupation forces have repeatedly raided the theater and beaten and arbitrarily arrested employees. Israeli authorities have said that they suspect theater staff of involvement in Mer-Khamis's killing, but have not charged anyone with the crime. The PA appears to be abusing the theater's staff because of the company's criticisms of the PA's rule.

The productions of the Freedom Theater, based in Jenin, have criticized the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and abuses by both Israel and the PA in the territory. Some staff and acting students are former members of Palestinian armed groups who renounced violence in favor of nonviolent opposition to Israeli and PA policies.

Read the full press release

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