Palestinian journalist held without charge by Israel

Amin Abu Wardeh, director of the privately owned news website Asdaa Press, was arrested in an early morning raid on his home in the West Bank city of Nablus on April 15, 2015, by Israeli security forces, according to news reports and his employer. Abu Wardeh’s wife, Um Omar, told local press freedom group the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA) that Israeli security forces interrogated her husband for an hour at their home before taking him to an unknown location. Soldiers searched their home and confiscated three laptops and her husband’s phone, she said.

On April 21, 2015, the Israeli military court in Salem ordered Abu Wardeh, whose website covers Palestinian, Arab, and media issues, to be held for six months in administrative detention, MADA reported. Under administrative detention, authorities may hold detainees for six months without charge and extend the detention an unlimited number of times.

On May 26, 2015, an Israeli military court reduced Abu Wardeh’s administrative detention from six months to three, Asdaa Press reported. Earlier that month, Abu Wardeh’s family told regional press freedom group SKeyes: “The prosecution cited the existence of a secret file, the court cannot inform [us] of the charge … and until now we have not been able to visit him since his arrest.”

According to a statement the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sent to CPJ on July 2, 2015, Abu Wardeh was sentenced to administrative detention after intelligence indicated he was a senior Hamas activist. The statement added that classified material, “based on a number of sources,” indicated he posed a “danger to the regional security.”

According to Israeli news reports, the IDF and Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, launched an operation in Nablus on April 15, 2015 to prevent Hamas from reestablishing itself. The raid, which began around 2am, resulted in the arrest of 29 people, some of whom Shin Bet claimed were either Hamas leaders or former prisoners involved with the movement, the reports said. CPJ has not been able to determine if Abu Wardeh’s arrest was linked to this operation. CPJ has found no evidence to link Abu Wardeh to Hamas.

Nasser Abu Bakr, vice-president of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, told Asdaa Press that Abu Wardeh is one of the most important documenters of Israeli press freedom violations and said he thinks this is why he was arrested. According to Asdaa Press, Abu Wardeh hosts a daily morning local radio program covering press freedom and prisoner’s rights issues. The website did not state which station the program is broadcast on. He also co-hosts a program twice a week on An-Najah National University’s radio station in which he helps families get in contact with imprisoned relatives, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate told CPJ.

Abu Wardeh has been detained before, according to news reports. After an Israeli military raid on his home on December 28, 2011, he was held in Hawara prison, according to MADA. He was held for questioning for more than 40 days and then sentenced to four months and 20 days in administrative detention, his wife told SKeyes. No charges were filed against him, the local press freedom group reported. He was released in October 2012 after serving 10 months, according to a Facebook group that advocated for his release. Abu Wardeh wrote a book about his experiences in prison, Impressions of Prison Journalism, which was published in November 2013, according to news reports.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The fourth paragraph has been updated to include the response from the IDF on Abu Wardeh’s case, which CPJ received after publication.