Al-Jazeera reporter released from Israeli prison

AP News
Posted: Sep 26, 2011 4:14 PM
Al-Jazeera reporter released from Israeli prison

An Al-Jazeera journalist imprisoned by Israel was released under a plea bargain Monday, after he acknowledged having contact with the Islamic militant group Hamas, his attorney said.

According to the Israeli military verdict, Samer Allawi said he attended two meetings "in or near Qatar" in 2006 and 2010 with Al- Jazeera colleagues allegedly active in Hamas and later met senior Hamas member Osama Hamdan at a press conference.

The prosecutor alleged that on both occasions Allawi agreed to help strengthen public support for Hamas by reporting stories that would positively portray the Palestinians, but that he did not act on that due to "inability or unwillingness.".

Salim Wakim, the journalist's attorney, said his client was sentenced with "very, very, very trivial crimes."

His lawyer said Allawi refused the requests by Hamas. The military prosecutor also said that Allawi never carried out the requests, saying instead that he acted unethically.

The military prosecutor found Allawi guilty of making contact with and offering services to the Islamic militant group Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Israel and several Western nations.

Allawi was released after paying a $1,400 fine, said Wakim.

Allawi, Al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Afghanistan, was arrested in August by Israeli soldiers when he was on his way back to Kabul after visiting family in the West Bank. He was held in an Israeli military prison for over a month.

Video footage on Al-Jazeera Arabic showed Allawi on Monday kissing his mother's hand and forehead repeatedly and hugging another woman upon his release. He was tearful.

Walid Al-Omary, Al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Jerusalem, criticized Israel's arrest of Allawi.

"He's a journalist. He meets with Hamas just like any other journalist," Al-Omary said.