Palestinian journalism student arrested from his home

Israeli soldiers arrested 21-year-old Palestinian journalist Musaab Khamees Qafesha from his home in the southern West Bank town of Hebron on March 29, 2016, and held him at the Etzion detention center, in the southern West Bank, for eight days, before transferring him to Ofer Prison, south of Ramallah, according to news reports.

At an April 6 hearing, an Israeli military court ordered him to be held for four months’ administrative detention, Qafesha’s father, Khamees, told CPJ by telephone. Qafesha’s family had not been able to contact him, Quds News and Qafesha’s father said.

In an April 18 phone call, Fadi al-Qawasmah, Qafesha’s lawyer, told CPJ that based on his discussions with Israeli authorities, he hoped Qafesha could be released on June 1. Israeli administrative detention procedures allow authorities to hold detainees for six months without charge and to extend the detention an unlimited number of times.

Qafesha is a journalism student at Hebron University and a volunteer freelance reporter for the Filisteen Post, which disseminates reports on the region through a Facebook page. He also wrote articles for Quds News, an independent news website produced by volunteer journalists. Many of Qafesha’s articles were based on his translations to Arabic of Israeli news reports. His latest article, published two weeks before his arrest, was based on a translation of a video from Israel’s Channel 2 news about an Israeli soldier who mistakenly thought he was about to be stabbed, spurring panic throughout Tel Aviv.

Qafesha’s family members and a close friend, Hussein Yaghmour, told CPJ they believe that Qafesha was arrested for his journalism.

Quds News reported that Qafesha’s arrest was related to his journalism. According to the outlet, when Qafesha identified himself as a Hebron University journalism student to the officers in his home, one responded, “That’s him.” The report did not cite a source.

According to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA), Israeli soldiers questioned Qafesha about his work and studies prior to arresting him. “When [Qafesha] informed them [the IDF] that he is a journalist, the officer responded that this is the reason for your arrest,” Qafesha’s brother, Qassam, told MADA.

Qafesha’s father, who was present at the time of his arrest, also told CPJ that Qafesha was arrested immediately after affirming that he was a journalist.

However, Al-Qawasmah, Qafesha’s lawyer, told CPJ that Qafesha had been arrested on charges of “Hamas-related activities.”

“There are no details given in administrative detention cases,” Al-Qawasmah told CPJ in a second conversation on April 19. “They simply said ‘Hamas-related activities.'”

Israeli security officials on May 3 told CPJ that “[Qafesha] was arrested for his involvement in activity on behalf of the Hamas terror organization amongst university students.” When asked for evidence to support this claim, they told CPJ they had no further information to offer.

A representative of the Hebron University chapter of the Islamic Bloc, Hamas’ youth movement, told CPJ that although Qafesha had previously been involved with the group, and had been detained for six and for eight months in 2012 and 2014, respectively, for his association with the Bloc, he had not been active in the group recently.