Palestinian reporter freed after 10-month detention without charge

Omar Nazzal confirms release almost a year after authorities put him in prison over alleged terror ties

Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal was arrested by Israeli security forces on April 23, 2016 on suspicion of terror activity. (Screenshot/Addameer on YouTube)
Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal was arrested by Israeli security forces on April 23, 2016 on suspicion of terror activity. (Screenshot/Addameer on YouTube)

A senior Palestinian journalist suspected of terrorist activity has been released after 10 months in an Israeli jail without charge, he told AFP on Tuesday.

Omar Nazzal, 55, was released on Monday after nearly a year in prison and following 13 hearings in an Israeli military court, he said.

Despite that, he added, he never received specific allegations, only a “general accusation” that he was threatening “regional security.”

“When my lawyer asked for details, he got only rejections from judges and military prosecutors,” Nazzal, a member of the general secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, told AFP.

He was arrested on April 23 at the border between the West Bank and Jordan, from where he had been due to fly to a European Federation of Journalists gathering in Bosnia.

Nazzal, a former employee at the Palestine Today newspaper, was detained under Israel’s controversial administrative detention laws, which allow suspects to be interned for indefinite periods without charge on evidence often not given to their lawyers.

Israel says administrative detention is intended to allow authorities to hold suspects while continuing to gather evidence, with the aim of preventing further attacks in the meantime. The system has been criticized by Palestinians, human rights groups and members of the international community.

The Palestinians have labelled Nazzal’s arrest an attack on press freedom and several international organizations have called for his release.

Israel insists that Nazzal was detained for “his involvement in terror group activities,” not “because of his activity as a journalist.”

He is accused of membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an organization considered to be a terror group by Israel, the US and the EU. He also worked at Palestine Today, a TV station which Israel says was affiliated with the terror group Islamic Jihad, for five months, but quit shortly before Israel shut it down in 2016.

The United Nations frequently calls on Israel to either charge or release those held under administrative detention, who number 530, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

According to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, around 20 journalists or journalism students are held by Israel, one of them for more than 20 years.

Mohammed al-Qiq, a journalist with Saudi television channel Al-Majd, has been on hunger strike for 16 days, his supporters said.

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