Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah meeting with members of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate at his office to discuss police assault against reporters the day before during a demonstration in Ramallah. (WAFA photo/ Maen Khalifa)

At orders from President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah established, on Monday, a committee to investigate police behavior during a demonstration outside the Ramallah courthouse the day before.

Police, according to WAFA, attacked demonstrators who were protesting a hearing for Basel al-Araj, assassinated by an Israeli force in Ramallah, last Monday, and five other people; most are currently held by Israel on charges of resisting its occupation. The six were charged by the Palestinian court with illegal possession of weapons.

Only one of the accused appeared in court since the other five were either dead, as in the case of al-Araj, or in Israeli custody.

Police attacked the demonstration and beat up protesters, including Araj’s father, as well as journalists covering the event.

Hamdallah held a meeting with the heads of the security forces, at his Ramallah office, to discuss the development of events outside the courthouse as well as similar protests in Bethlehem, al-Araj’s hometown.

The prime minister stressed that no one was above the law, including the security forces, adding that he strongly opposes any attack on freedom of expression and the media, which is protected by the Palestinian Basic Law.

He said anyone who infringes on these rights will be held accountable for their acts.

He also urged the public not to slander the security forces nor label them traitors, explaining that many members of the security forces were killed while doing their duty in protecting people.

The committee included the deputy minister of the Ministry of Interior, Mohammad Mansour, head of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, Ammar Dweik, and the head of the Bar Association Hussein Shabaneh.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate welcomed the setting up of the investigation committee.

Head of the syndicate, Nasser Abu Bakr, told a press conference following a discussion of the police attack against journalists covering the demonstration outside the courthouse that the prime minister has issued clear orders to the security forces not to attack journalists.

He expressed hope that the investigation will reveal the truth of what happened on that day and that strict action will be taken against those who assaulted the journalists.

Journalists at the press conference described the police assault against cameramen and photojournalists as a “dangerous phenomena” that should not be taken lightly because of what it could do for freedom of opinion and expression.

The photojournalists and cameramen who were attacked said they are going to file a complaint against the police.

Later, the prime minister met with members of the board of the Journalists Syndicate at his office and confirmed to them his commitment to freedom of expression and the media as well as protection of journalists against attacks, promising to hold accountable any person who attacked journalists while doing their work.

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