February 10, 2008 / 5:24 PM / 12 years ago

Hamas bans Gaza newspaper over satirical cartoon

GAZA (Reuters) - A Hamas-led court banned a Palestinian newspaper in the Gaza Strip after it published a cartoon mocking lawmakers loyal to the ruling Islamist group Hamas.

Al-Ayyam newspaper, printed in the West Bank, has close ties to the Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas Islamists routed Abbas’s secular Fatah to seize control of the Gaza Strip in June. Abbas, who still holds sway in the larger West Bank, has since appointed a Fatah-backed administration and opened U.S.-backed peace talks with Israel.

“This is a silencing policy from Hamas and this will enhance the separation between the West Bank and Gaza,” said Abdel Nasser al-Najjar, editor-in-chief of the al-Ayyam newspaper.

Abbas’s government in the West Bank has banned the publishing and distribution of two pro-Hamas newspapers and two journalists considered loyal to Hamas have been detained in the city of Hebron for several months.

A Hamas government official said the civil court decision to suspend distribution of the newspaper came after Hamas lawmakers complained of defamation. The cartoon was published in November.

The court also handed down suspended jail sentences to the caricaturist as well as publisher Akram Haniyeh, although both men are based in the West Bank and were not present for the sentencing.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi

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