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Al-Jazeera slams Israel's arrest of correspondent

Aug. 17, 2011 7:12 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 19, 2011 10:38 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Al-Jazeera expressed outrage on Tuesday at the Israeli authorities detention of their Afghanistan Bureau Chief seized at the border with Jordan a week ago.

Samer Allawi was returning from a three-week holiday in his hometown of Sebastiya in the West Bank district of Nablus, a statement from the Doha-based satellite news channel's Jerusalem Bureau said.

Israeli authorities detained the senior journalist at the King Hussein, or Allenby, border terminal, the sole crossing for West Bank residents with a Palestinian identity card like Allawi.

Al-Jazeera said he was transferred to Israel's Jalam [Kishon] prison, east of the northern city of Haifa, and an initial detention period of 96 hours had been extended.

Allawi was arrested by the Israeli Shin Bet, his lawyer told Ma'an, and his detention has been extended every four days to continue the investigation.

Allawi's family had been told by Israeli authorities that he would initially be detained for four days of questioning, calling the detention a "security-related arrest," Al Jazeera reported.

A military court extended the detention for a further ten days on Tuesday, Allawi's lawyer Salim Waqim told Ma'an.

"Allawi has not been charged but is being held on suspicion of affiliation with Hamas' military wing."

"At a military court hearing on Tuesday Israeli police asked the judge to extend his detention by an additional ten days to complete their investigation," Waqim said.

"We asked the judge to release him as there is no evidence for the accusations against him."

Israeli intelligence forces questioned the journalist about his work and management of Al-Jazeera’s bureau in Afghanistan, Waqim added, and took the login details for his personal work email and news software information.

His financial status, relationships with family and relatives, school days in Nablus and his college years in Islamabad were also questioned, the lawyer said.

Israeli authorities queried whether Allawi was in touch with US, Jordanian, Palestinian or other intelligence services, and accused him of being a member of and in contact with Islamist group Hamas.

The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) called Allawi's detention a "flagrant violation of freedom of expression and international law."

"MADA demands the intervention of international parties to push for his immediate release from Israeli custody," the rights group said in a statement.

"Israel must clarify why it continues to hold Samer Allawi," the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator of New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists Mohamed Abdel Dayem said Monday.

"Our concern for Allawi's well-being and his legal rights is amplified with every passing day that he is held without due process."

Al-Jazeera said Allawi had frequently holidayed in the West Bank without problems.
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