Rep. Pocan blasts Palestinian Authority for arresting Amro

WASHINGTON – As one of the more outspoken Congressmen regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) spearheaded a June letter advocating on behalf of Palestinian activist Issa Amro who was charged by the Israeli military for obstructing soldiers. However, with the Palestinian Authority arresting Amro on Monday due to a Facebook post critiquing their crackdown on free speech, Congressman Pocan directed his ire towards the Palestinian Authority instead.

“The Palestinian Authority’s unjust detention of Mr. Amro for exercising his right to free speech is wrong and I urge the Palestinian Authority to immediately release him,” Pocan told Jewish Insider. “The P.A. is moving in an unfortunate direction, as demonstrated by this incident, by engaging in an anti-democratic campaign against free speech.” Amro’s arrest on Monday was also denounced by human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Pocan’s criticism of the P.A. is significant given his recent activism on behalf of the Palestinian cause. In June, the Wisconsin lawmaker was the sole Congressional sponsor of a Capitol Hill event titled: “50 years of Israeli Military Occupation and Life for Palestinian children.” Last year, Pocan was one of only 20 Members of Congress to sign a letter emphasizing that “[Palestinian] children live under the constant fear of arrest, detention, and violence at the hand of the Israeli military.”

Amro’s military charges received additional attention after four Senators, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) —  signed a letter that urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to monitor his trial by Israel. The indictment against Amro includes insulting soldiers, spitting at a settler, and entering a closed military zone —  with most of the incidents occurring in 2013.

In a statement to Jewish Insider, Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman responded to the P.A.’s arrest of Amro: “We have seen the reports. We believe it is important that governments protect the freedoms of expression, and create an atmosphere where all voices can be heard,” Vasquez said.

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