Amira Haas writes for Haaretz:
Journalists who stood outside the court building exchanged jokes about the "six million dollars." No problem, we'll obtain them, someone said. That's small change, another said. But these light remarks did not hide concerns about their colleague, Yusuf Al-Shayeb, who was at the time on his way to the Magistrate's Court in Ramallah, to have his remand extended.
The Palestinian Authority's foreign ministry, headed by Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki, and the Palestinian diplomatic mission in France have submitted libel claims against Al-Shayeb --- who works for the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper (which is associated with the PA ) and AlGhad, a Jordanian newspaper --- demanding compensation of six million dollars.
Of the two papers that he writes for, it was the Jordanian one that on January 29 published his report on claims of corruption at the Palestinian diplomatic mission in France. The report alleged that the mission's deputy ambassador, Safwat Ibraghit, compels Palestinian students to spy on Muslim groups in France and relay information to Palestinian and foreign intelligence services. Al-Shayeb also claimed that Maliki, Palestinian National Fund director Dr. Ramzi Khouri, and Abu Nabil, who handles funds for Fatah, were responsible for Ibraghit's promotion, despite complaints that have been leveled against him.
Al-Shayeb noted that sources in the PA foreign ministry reject these claims and brand them "malicious". According to these sources, persons who level complaints against the diplomatic mission are acting out of personal interests and want to besmirch the reputation of senior officials who were nominated by the PA government and by the PLO. The sources also told Al-Shayeb that the Foreign Ministry does not hesitate to investigate complaints leveled against it.
Responses to the article that reinforced its allegations were posted immediately on the AlGhad website. One of the respondents noted that the diplomatic mission itself had not issued a statement to the media.
On January 31, Al-Shayeb was summoned to the PA's general intelligence service's office in Ramallah. He refused to reveal the identity of his sources, and said that under the 1995 Palestinian press and publications law, a journalist is obliged to reveal sources only under orders issued by a court.
Since he was not classified as a detained suspect, his phone was not confiscated and he was able to report about his whereabouts. Later, he told a reporter from the Doha Center for Media Freedom that while he was interrogated in the intelligence service offices, his cell phone received threatening messages.
The same day, incidentally, another journalist, Rami Samara, who works for the official Palestinian news service Wafa and for a local radio station, was arrested. The pretext for his detention was a mocking Facebook entry he posted that ridiculed the PLO's decision to resume negotiations with Israel (talks which, as expected, were deferred ). The two journalists were released in the evening; before their release, the Palestinian Journalists Union in the West Bank staged a rally on their behalf at Ramallah's Manara Square.
On February 20, Al-Shayeb was stunned to discover that his newspaper published an apology for his report. A few days later, he was fired. According the Doha Center for Media Freedom's website, Al-Shayeb submitted an official complaint to the Jordanian journalists' association, and also started legal proceedings against AlGhad. But he was not able to make much headway because he was detained last Sunday, March 25, on orders from the Palestinian attorney general; he was initially arrested for 48 hours. The journalists association protested this arrest, and arranged a protest vigil when he was taken for a remand extension last Wednesday.