Israel arrests Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba'aneh

Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba'aneh, a contributor to the Cartoon Movement comics journalism site, was arrested by Israeli authorities on Saturday and is being held without access to a lawyer, a situation that could continue indefinitely. The Cartoon Movement blog has been tracking the story as well as the reaction by international organizations.

Saba'aneh is a political cartoonist for Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official newspaper of the Palestinian National Authority, the governing body for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and his cartoons comment on the political and human rights situation of the region, often criticizing the Israeli detention of Palestinians. He also works in the public relations department of the Arab American University. He visited the United States in 2010 as a participant in the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program.

On Thursday, an Israeli military court extended Saba'aneh's detention for nine days, and further extensions are possible. According to the International Council for Human Rights, "The Israeli security forces refuse to disclose any details on Mohammed Sabaana's whereabouts and further deny to grant access to his lawyer or his family members. He is also at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment."

The reason for Saba'aneh's arrest is not clear; the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which has called for Saba'aneh's release, said he is accused of "providing services to unspecified 'hostile organizations." However, the CPJ's Sharif Mansour said "Israel has a history of using administrative detention to silence critical reporting. This flies in the face of international law. The Israeli authorities must explain why they have used such an overbroad security statute against political cartoonist Mohammad Saba'aneh."

The CPJ and Cartoonists Rights Network International have called for Saba'aneh's immediate release; Saba'aneh is the CRNI's representative in Palestine, and the head of the organization has written to the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. asking that Saba'aneh be set free. Reporters Without Borders has also condemned the arrest. The International Council for Human Rights has issued a call to action, urging people to send letters to the Israeli authorities and international organizations demanding that Saba'aneh be released.

A gallery of Saba'aneh's cartoons is here.

(via The Daily Cartoonist )

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