New York, August 15, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Israel to clarify the legal basis for holding Al-Jazeera correspondent Samer Allawi, who has been in Israeli state custody since Tuesday.
Allawi, the Kabul bureau chief for Al-Jazeera, was arrested at al-Karama border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank while leaving the Occupied Territories after a three-week vacation in his hometown near Nablus, Al-Jazeera reported. Allawi’s brother, Musaab, told Al-Jazeera that the journalist intended to cross into Jordan then travel back to Kabul. He had entered the West Bank at the same crossing without difficulty three weeks earlier.
“Israel must clarify why it continues to hold Samer Allawi,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Our concern for Allawi’s well-being and his legal rights is amplified with every passing day that he is held without due process.”
On Tuesday, Israeli authorities informed Allawi’s family that he was in custody and would be held for four days for questioning. At the time, the authorities provided no justification for holding the journalist, who carries a Jordanian passport, and said only that it was a “security-related arrest,” Al-Jazeera reported. On Thursday, Israeli authorities informed Allawi’s employer that his detention would be extended to eight days, but again failed to provide a reason.
Majed Khader, program editor and head of assignments at Al-Jazeera, said Allawi told Salim Wakeem, a lawyer hired for him by Al-Jazeera, that he would be charged with transferring money and orders from Afghanistan to the West Bank if he refused to act as an informant. Allawi will appear with Wakeem in front of an Israeli military judge at the Salim military checkpoint, south of Jenin, on Tuesday, Khader told CPJ. Khader also said that Allawi has not been charged with any crime thus far.
Several local human rights and press freedom groups released statements condemning Allawi’s arrest and calling for his immediate release. CPJ has documented persistent press freedom violations in the West Bank, including detentions, censorship, and physical attacks by Israeli soldiers. In March 2010, CPJ called on Israel to end the harassment of journalists and bring the military’s practices in line with international standards for press freedom, allowing journalists to conduct their work without interference.