Released @ 11.00 GMT 23rd July 1997

Palestinian Police Confiscate the Answers of Dr. Soboh’s Students

At 15:15 Monday, 21 July, 1997, the Palestinian Police arrived at the house of Dr. Fathi Soboh in Gaza and confiscated student answers to an exam he had administered at Al-Azhar University on 21 June.

Dr. Soboh is a researcher and professor in the Department of Education at Al-Azhar University. He is deeply involved in community activities, including heading a Palestinian nongovernmental organization. On 2 July, Palestinian Preventive Security arrested Dr. Soboh for what they claimed were “security reasons.”

However, according to information given by his wife, Fatima Soboh, on 21 June, Dr. Soboh administered an examination for his students in which he asked two questions, one about corruption in the Palestinian National Authority, and one about corruption at Al-Azhar University. He was subsequently summoned by the Dean of the University, Dr. Riad Al-Khodari, where after discussing the questions, he was informed that there would be an investigation by the university.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights did not receive any answer to questions posed to the then-Acting Attorney General regarding the reasons for Dr. Soboh’s arrest, and petitioned the High Court regarding the illegality of the arrest. On 12 July, 1997, the High Court gave the Attorney General eight days in which to respond to the Centre’s inquiries (see press release of 12 July). No answers have been given. In a few days, the High Court should review the case and make a final decision regarding Dr. Soboh’s arrest. As of now, no date has been set.

The Palestinian Centre expresses its deep concern regarding the dangerous nature of these new developments in Dr. Soboh’s case, especially the confiscation of the student answers. The confiscation is a clear violation of academic freedom. Tens of students now feel they might be threatened because of the character of their answers. The uncensored answers given on the day of the examination may place some of the students in danger of being arrested by Palestinian Preventive Security. The confiscation of the student answers supports the Centre’s contention that Dr. Soboh’s arrest was illegitimate, and not for security reasons.