Palestinian Court Releases Top DJ on Bail After Techno Rave at Moses' Burial Place

Sama Abdulhadi faces charges of desecrating a holy site and violating COVID-19 lockdown measures after organizing a party at Nabi Musa, while organizers insist the Palestinian Tourism Ministry approved the event

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Palestinians sit inside Nabi Musa shrine in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 29, 2020. Picture taken December 29, 2020
Palestinians sit inside Nabi Musa shrine in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 29, 2020. Picture taken December 29, 2020 Credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/ REUTERS

A prominent Palestinian DJ detained following a party at a West Bank holy site was released on bail on Sunday, Palestinian media reported, amid public debate over the event.

Sama Abdulhadi, dubbed the "Palestinian techno queen," was released by a Palestinian Authority court order on a cash bond, after she was detained for organizing an event in Nabi Musa, near Jericho, aiming to showcase the music scene in Palestine.

An online petition calling for her release received over 100,000 signatures, and was shared by prominent civil rights activist Angela Davis, as well as musicians Brian Eno and Roger Waters.

Although she has not been indicted, she is being investigated on the charges of desecrating a holy site and religious symbols, and violating coronavirus lockdown measures, reports say. She could face up to two year's imprisonment.

In the meantime, she will be restricted from traveling outside of the Palestinian territories. She currently resides in Europe.

The petition calling for her release said the "Ministry of Tourism bears full responsibility for taking the decision to allow the concert to take place" and that Abdulhadi "is being made a scapegoat and held accountable for a crime that did not happen and one that she certainly did not commit."

According to reports in Palestinian media, the government’s probe into the event found both the organizers and the Tourism Ministry responsible. It is unclear, however, whether the government intends to take any further measures against both.

Dozens of young Palestinians from East Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem attended the party on December 27 at Nabi Musa where, according to Muslim belief, the prophet Moses is buried. Participants brought large quantities of alcohol to the site near Jericho, which was built in the 12th century and includes a mosque and hostel for visitors.

Abdulhadi said in a statement: “I am safe and well and would like to thank everybody who has spoken out in support of my situation and called for my immediate release. I am overwhelmed by the support from my fellow musicians, artists, activists and the entire music community. I want to thank anybody and everybody who has made me feel so supported. At this moment, I just want to spend time with my family.”

A statement by Beatport, an online electronic music platform that organized the party, said "It was approved to Abdulhadi in writing by the General Director of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism." It added the venue is regularly available for hire, hosting several musical events in the past.

The event stirred controversy, with hundreds of young people from East Jerusalem arriving at the event to drive out the partyers. Dozens more came to the site the following day and held prayer services, as well as destroying and burning furniture and equipment used by the hostel.

Palestinians destroying the furniture used by the hostel at Nabi Musa.

Senior Palestinian government officials warned against attempts to take advantage of the incident to attack the government, while some Palestinians on social media warned incident could provide Israel with the legitimacy to harm holy sites or allow similar parties, by invoking the principle of freedom of expression.

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