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Friday, June 17, 2011

Palestinian Arab prisoners using Facebook

From Ma'an:
Trying to show that Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s custody enjoy VIP treatment, the Israeli daily Ma'ariv published Wednesday a report by Amit Cohen who monitored the Facebook accounts of some prisoners.

Ma'ariv says that a Hamas-affiliated prisoner, Haytham Battat, uploaded on his Facebook page three weeks ago a short YouTube film he entitled "Take me to Jihad." The film, according to Ma'ariv, included a song in Arabic dedicated to the Chechen rebels. A few minutes after the film was uploaded, his mother wrote a comment saying, “Oh my beloved son. This is a great song. I hope you and all prisoners will be released tomorrow morning."

The strange part of the story is that Battat updates his Facebook page from his prison cell. Battat is 27 and he is serving three consecutive life sentences after he was convicted of masterminding a bombing in Beersheba. He posted on his page photos shot inside the prison in one of which he is sitting with Sa’id Shalalda, who was convicted of abducting and killing an Israeli man, Sasson Nuriel, in 2005 near Ramallah.

Ma'ariv highlighted that Shalalda was on the list of Palestinian prisoners Israel approved to be released if a prisoner swap deal for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is to be agreed on.

Battat is not the only Palestinian prisoner who updates his Facebook page from his prison cell. Ma'ariv’s report says many prisoners have state-of-the-art cell phones which help them access the Internet easily and even make video calls.

Another Palestinian prisoner, Saed Omar, posted on his Facebook page several photos of the lavish meals he and other prisoners are served, the paper reported. Omar is from the Nablus district, and he is affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He is serving a 19-year sentence. He was said to have posted photos of prisoners preparing stuffed chickens before they gathered around a luxurious table to eat their meal.

"I would rather die with my weapon in my hand than the stay alive with my weapon in my enemy’s hand," Omar was quoted as saying on Facebook.

After Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was detained in Gaza, the issue of living conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails surfaced as an issue, with hardliners advocating the abolition of prisoners rights. There were attempts to toughen prison conditions.
Ma'ariv's article also mentions the prisoners doing on-line shopping (picking out clothing and having their families deliver it).

This was originally written about in Al Arabiya a couple of weeks ago. I cannot find the article now but the price for smuggled cellphones was pretty high - if I recall, about 20,000 shekels. Ma'ariv reports that the prisoners say that prison administrators turn a blind eye to the cell phone use as long as the prisoners are behaving and not using the phones to violate security. The Israel Prisons Service denied that.

(h/t Joel)