Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas Reuters

A court in the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Thursday extended for four days the detention of a prominent activist who criticized PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, his lawyer said.

Issa Amro was detained on Monday by Palestinian security forces in Hevron on accusations of causing strife, among other charges.

Amro reportedly criticized the detention of a local journalist who had called for Abbas's resignation.

A closed court in Hevron on Thursday extended his detention for four more days, Amro's lawyer Muhannad Karaja told AFP after the session.

"We are surprised by this decision. We were expecting he would be freed today because Issa is a well-known activist," Karaja said.

PA officials have not publicly commented on Amro's detention and attempts to reach the police were unsuccessful, noted AFP.

The arrest was criticized earlier this week by Amnesty International and the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, which said it signals a growing crackdown on free expression in the PA.

"It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence," Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East, said on Thursday.

She added Amro's detention was the "latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech."

Amro’s arrest comes amid an ongoing crackdown on journalists by the PA. In August, the PA introduced a controversial Electronic Crimes Law, which imposes tight controls on media freedom and banning online expression and dissent.

The PA insists the law was passed to combat electronic crimes and denies the purpose of the order was to abuse Abbas's opponents.

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