Beirut, July 27, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed concern about the arrest and detention without charge of Lama Khater, a Palestinian blogger and contributing opinion writer to several media outlets, including Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, the Hamas-affiliated Quds News Network, and the Arab online women’s publication Meem Magazine.
Early in the morning of July 24, Israeli troops raided Khater’s house in the southern West Bank city of Hebron and arrested her without informing her of any charges, according to news reports, the regional press freedom group SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, and Khater’s daughter, Bessam al-Fakhouri, who posted photographs of Khater’s arrest on Twitter.
Al-Fakhouri told CPJ on July 26 that Israeli forces arrived at Khater’s house at around 1:30 a.m.
“We are concerned about the arrest of Lama Khater given Israel’s frequent use of legal measures, including administrative detention, to keep journalists in jail without bringing any charges against them,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour, from Washington, D.C. “The Israeli authorities must explain immediately why they are holding her or let her go.”
Al-Fakhouri told CPJ, “A large number of Israeli soldiers stormed into our house and informed my mother that she was under arrest. They seized her cell phone, laptop, and her external hard drive. They didn’t mention the charges against her, but she has been previously threatened by the Israeli and Palestinian intelligence services because of her work as a writer and political analyst. She was taken to an unknown destination, but she was later transferred to Ashkelon prison.”
The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately reply to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.
News reports and the local prisoner support group Palestinian Prisoner’s Club quoted Khater’s lawyer, Firas al-Sabah, as saying that the Israeli military court of Ashkelon on July 26 extended Khater’s detention for eight days to complete the investigation. Al-Sabah added, according to the same reports, that Khater was first taken from her home to the Kiryat Arba settlement and then transferred to Ashkelon, where she was subjected to intensive interrogation.
According to news reports, Khater is well known for her criticism of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and of the Palestinian National Authority. On July 20, she published an op-ed in Meem Magazine criticizing Israel for allegedly trying to starve Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the Great Return protests by partially closing the Karam Abu Salem border crossing in Gaza with the support of Egypt.
On the days prior to her arrest, Khater, who has 88,700 followers on Twitter and 41,630 on Facebook, wrote tweets criticizing Israel for denying Muslims entry to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem, which is a holy site for the three major monotheistic religions, and for responding to the burning kites sent by Palestinians protesters from Gaza into Israel with ballistic missiles.
Al-Fakhouri told CPJ on July 27 that no formal charges have yet been brought against her mother, who will have an appeal hearing in Ramallah on July 29.
Khater’s arrest follows the arrest in June of Palestinian freelance photojournalist Bilal Hamid al-Taweel by Israeli security forces. He was released on June 27, according to news reports and reports shared on social media.