Israel silencing detained Palestinian journalist, says wife

AP News
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Posted: Apr 26, 2016 12:36 PM
Israel silencing detained Palestinian journalist, says wife

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The wife of a detained Palestinian journalist said Tuesday that Israel is trying to silence him.

Omar Nazzal, 53, was seized over the weekend at an Israeli-run crossing between the West Bank and Jordan. At the time, he was heading to a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists in Bosnia.

The federation has condemned Nazzal's detention and urged Israel to release him immediately.

Nazzal headed Palestine Today, a TV station affiliated with the militant group Islamic Jihad, for five months, but quit earlier this year shortly before Israel shut it down.

He also had ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small PLO faction that in the past was involved in attacks against Israeli targets.

Nazzal, a leading member of the Palestinian journalists' union, frequently spoke out against Israeli closures of media outlets that Israel alleged were engaged in incitement.

In a statement, Israel's Shin Bet internal security service pointed to his connections to Palestine Today and said he had been arrested for his activities in the PFLP.

"It should be made clear that his arrest wasn't because of his activities as a journalist but because of his involvement in the terror organization," the statement said. It gave no further details on his alleged activities.

On Monday, Nazzal appeared in an Israeli military court, said his wife, Marlen. His attorney asked the court to release his client, but no decision was made, she said. Another session is set for Wednesday, she said.

The Israeli prosecutor told the court that he had collected secret evidence against Nazzal, but refused to reveal it in court.

In Israeli military courts, prosecutors have the right to hide evidence from the defense, arguing that full disclosure could compromise informers. Human rights groups say the practice violates the right to due process.

Nazzal's detention comes after seven months of heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions and seven years of paralysis in peace efforts.

Since October, 28 Israelis have been killed in a wave of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli security forces or after carrying out attacks on Israelis.

The Israeli rights group B'Tselem, citing official figures from the Israel Prison Service, said there was a marked increase in the number of Palestinians in Israeli custody in the last quarter of 2015.

At the end of the year, 6,066 Palestinians were being held on security allegations, the highest number since mid-2010, the group reported.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Club, an advocacy group, said 15 journalists are among those held by Israel. They includes several who worked for media linked to Islamic Jihad and the militant Hamas, while others are independent.

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This story has been corrected to show that Omar Nazzal was present at Monday's hearing.