Al Jazeera challenges Israel after its journalist is freed from detention
Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 28-09-2011 Al Jazeera has accused Israel of human rights breaches during the 49 day detention of its Kabul bureau head Samer Allawi, who has been released after reaching a plea bargain with Israeli authorities.
The Palestinian born journalist, who was arrested on 10 August after visiting family in the West Bank, was held without charge under the suspicion of having links with Hamas – a charge he initially denied but later accepted under interrogation.
Allawi had agreed "to carry out military or organisational activity as required by Hamas," said Shin Bet, Israel's internal intelligence agency. Israeli officials added these activities included: "criticising American actions in Afghanistan and voicing support for the Palestinian 'resistance'."
Al Jazeera has slammed the accusations. A spokesman for the Qatar-based satellite network today said: "While Samer has been released, the grounds for his extended detention are inexcusable: the false accusations made against him changed over the weeks as one accusation changed to another, finally settling upon an assertions that a Hamas official made a request to him at an open press conference.
"Mr Allawi's detention has been completely baseless," he added. "There was no clear process to this military detention. We continue to hold the Israeli authorities responsible for these blatant breaches of human rights and for causing psychological trauma for Mr Allawi, his wife, children, and his extended family through this ordeal."
The Al Jazeera journalist was convicted by an Israeli military court of "conspiracy to provide a service for an outlawed organisation." He was released from custody on 26 September after being handed a suspended jail sentence and a 5,000 shekel (US$1,351) fine.
Lawyer Salim Wakim told Human Rights Watch his client had been threatened with physical harm while in prison unless he admitted membership of Hamas.
Under interrogation, Allawi said he had been recruited by Hamas in Pakistan in 1993, but his lawyer said he had subsequently refused Hamas' requests, and had been convicted of "very, very, very trivial crimes".
"There was no evidence against me," Samer Allawi said upon his release. "The whole arrest episode was a charade aimed at extorting Al Jazeera. I was not the target." He added he had been "subjected to a great deal of pressure during my arrest and the interrogations."
Allawi stressed he met with Hamas officials while reporting, stating: "I meet people everywhere from whom I can get the news."
His employer has now called upon the Israeli authorities to "desist from harassing and impeding Al Jazeera and any other journalists from undertaking their professional responsibilities as reporters".
Hamas won elections in Palestine in 2006 and then seized power of the Gaza Strip after a short civil war a year later. It is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU.