Reporters Without Borders condemns the decision by a Palestinian Authority court in Ramallah on 28 March to extend reporter Yousef Shayeb’s detention for another two weeks. Shayeb was arrested on 26 March in connection with libel suits brought by Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki and the head of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in France, Hael Al Fahoum.
The suits were prompted by an article Shayeb wrote for the Jordanian daily Al-Ghad in January about alleged corruption within the diplomatic mission in France.
“We condemn the exorbitant size of the damages being sought by the plaintiffs – 6 million dollars – and the court’s decision to keep Shayeb in police custody for another two weeks. We also urge the Palestinian judicial system to respect Shayeb’s right not to reveal his sources, a right that is recognized by Palestinian law”, Reporters Without Borders said.
Shayeb’s story cited unidentified sources for his claim that both the head of the mission in France and his deputy were involved in cases of corruption. His story also accused them of trying to recruit Palestinians residing in France to spy on Islamist groups on french soil. The court’s decision to keep him in custody was reportedly a result of his refusal to name these sources.
Shayeb’s arrest has been widely condemned by journalists and civil society organizations in the Palestinian Territories. His lawyer said: “The entire Palestinian press has been put on trial, not just Yousef Shayeb, who just did his duty as a journalist by reporting information supported by sources.”
The Palestinian diplomatic mission in France confirmed to Reporters Without Borders that ambassador Fahoum is suing Shayeb for libel while foreign minister Malki said: “All that we are asking of the prosecutor general is to investigate this case and to convict us if Shayeb’s claims prove to be true and to convict him if his information proves to be false, defamatory and insulting.”