Palestinian editor arrested after airing Hamas speech

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HEBRON, West Bank, Nov 9 (Reuters) A major Palestinian news service stopped broadcasting today to protest the arrest of one of its top editors by Palestinian police after his station broadcast a speech by a Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip.

Executives from the Maan agency said Mu'taz al-Kurdi, a member of its board and director of Hebron's al-Amal television station, was arrested on Thursday for airing a speech by Ismail Haniyeh, who serves as prime minister of a Hamas-led government dismissed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June after routing Fatah forces loyal to Abbas. Tensions between Hamas and Fatah remain high in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, where both sides accuse each other of cracking down on their rivals.

''This is an illegal arrest,'' said Saleem Sowidan, chairman of Maan's board. ''We did not receive any official letter telling us not broadcast this or any other speech. We will go on an open-ended strike in all West Bank cities until he is freed.'' Ramadan Awad, Hebron's chief of police, said they arrested Kurdi because he had not reported for work as a policeman and for showing ''a lack of respect to the police in Hebron''.

Sowidan disputed the police account, saying Kurdi worked as an editor and did not hold a second job as a policeman.

A spokesman for Abbas's government in the West Bank had no immediate comment on Kurdi's arrest.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the arrest ''confirms there is suppression of the media in the West Bank''.

REUTERS YA RK2153

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