New York, November 10, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by Israel's continued detention of Hassan Ghani, a correspondent for Iran's Press TV.
Ghani was arrested with four other journalists on Friday when soldiers boarded two humanitarian aid ships sailing toward Gaza, news reports said. The other journalists included Lina Attallah, of Al-Masry al-Youm's English edition; Jihan Hafiz, of Democracy Now!; Casey Kauffmann of Al-Jazeera English; and Ayman Al-Zubair of Al-Jazeera. The four journalists, a few of whom had equipment and footage confiscated by the Israeli authorities, have all been released and deported except Ghani, news reports said.
Ghani and several passengers reportedly still in custody refused to sign a statement in Hebrew given to them by Israeli authorities saying they entered Israel illegally, because they said they were forcibly brought to Israel, Israeli daily Haaretz reported. Press TV said Ghani had been denied access to an attorney and that authorities refused to reveal his current location. The Israel Defense Forces, in a statement issued on their website, said the ships "which were en-route to the Gaza Strip, [were] attempting to break the maritime security blockade that is in accordance with international law."
"Hassan Ghani was conducting journalistic work, and Israel should release him without condition," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Journalists have a legitimate function. Israel must return the journalists' equipment and footage and allow them to carry out their job."
Al-Masry al-Youm's Attallah, who was released on Saturday, told CPJ that Ghani had been separated from the other male detainees and was being held separately. She said she suspected he was singled out for his association with the Iranian Press TV and for his presence on last year's convoy of the Mavi Marmara.
In a report for Democracy Now!, Hafiz, who was released on Monday, said she also refused to sign the statement. She said she spent three nights in jail and was "strip-searched and denied phone calls to relatives for 48 hours." She said security forces refused to see her press credentials and confiscated her equipment and footage, which she has not gotten back. She added that Israeli forces referred to Ghani as the "Iranian," although he is a British national of Pakistani descent.
Ghani's father told Press TV that the British Foreign Office informed him that a representative from their Israeli office had spoken to Ghani and that the journalist was doing well.
Ghani was covering the story of the flotilla that sailed from Turkey on Wednesday, carrying medical aid to the Gaza Strip. He was also on the May 2010 convoy of humanitarian aid ships sailing to the Gaza Strip when Israeli forces arrested at least 20 journalists, confiscating their equipment, and seizing and editing their footage, CPJ reported.