Literature festival shut down by police in Gaza
Published Thursday 10/05/2012 (updated) 17/05/2012 09:19
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Security forces in the Gaza Strip shut down the fifth Palestine Festival of Literature late Wednesday, sparking outrage from participants and an apology by the chief of police.
The festival's final event was ordered to close down by police forces, organizers said Thursday, even though the event was coordinated by the ministry of culture in Gaza. Police said it lacked a permit.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned the action and described it as "a violation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to peaceful assembly".
The center said that after a speech by Amru Izzat on liberty, a security officer wearing civilian clothes arrived at the festival and described himself as a member of the police investigation department.
"He cut off the electricity and requested the attendees to leave the place. Shortly after this occurred, a number of security officers were deployed to the place when attendees refused to leave," the group said.
"They confiscated cameras that had filmed the colloquium, chaos spread and the colloquium was broken up."
Participants said the chief of police in Gaza and an official with the interior ministry visited them in their hotel and apologized personally. The police chief called the incident an "individual error."
The event later resumed at the hotel, participants said.
A Ma'an correspondent said the festival was organized by 35 members including three Americans, a Spanish national, a Canadian, and a Tunisian citizen. The rest were from Egypt and other Arab countries.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate also condemned the Hamas government.
Security forces cut off electricity and forbade the audience from taking photos on their mobiles, it said. They also "attacked" Hazem Shahin, a member of an Egyptian band, the syndicate said.
It was not immediately possible to contact visiting members of the festival because they were afraid to discuss the incident until their departure. The event will conclude in Cairo.