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Israel releases Palestinian journalist after 10 months with no trial

After 10 months of administrative detention, it appears the army no longer views Omar Nazzal as a dangerous threat — just like countless other administrative detainees who sit in prison for months, if not years.

Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal is seen after being released from Israeli jail, near the Ofer prison, in the West Bank city of Beitunia, February 20, 2017. (Flash90)

Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal is seen after being released from Israeli jail, near the Ofer prison, in the West Bank city of Beitunia, February 20, 2017. (Flash90)

Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal was released from Israeli prison on Monday after 10 months in administrative detention. Upon his release, Nazzal, a member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, was welcomed by family members and supporters outside Ofer military prison, near Ramallah.

Nazzal, 55, was first detained in April at Allenby Bridge while trying to leave the West Bank en route to an international conference in Europe. He was interrogated for a week, after which he was put in administrative detention for a period of four months. The administrative order was twice renewed, once in August and in November.

Administrative detention is an extreme measure meant to be adopted rarely and with moderation. Detainees are held indefinitely without charge or trial — without any way to defend themselves.

The Israeli army and Shin Bet Security Service claim Nazzal is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel views as a terrorist organization. Nazzal repeatedly denied the charge and demanded to either sentenced or released. According to his lawyer, Nazzal was jailed by Israel for his repeated criticism of the Palestinian Authority.

Journalists’ associations worldwide condemned Nazzal’s detention and called for his imminent release. In response to the army’s decision, Phillipe Leruth, the president of the International Federation of Journalists, said that “Israel’s policy of administrative detention is a violation of human rights, of the right to a fair trial, and the presumption of innocence. We are very disturbed by the fact that Israeli authorities continue with this policy and extends it without limits.”

Palestinian journalists protest in solidarity with their colleague Omar Nazzal, who was put in administrative detention in late April, April 29, 2016. (Flash90)

Palestinian journalists protest in solidarity with their colleague Omar Nazzal, who was put in administrative detention in late April, April 29, 2016. (Flash90)

After 10 months of administrative detention, it appears that the army no longer views Omar Nazzal as a dangerous threat — just like countless other administrative detainees who sit in prison for months, if not years.

Israel continues to hold four other Palestinian journalists in administrative detention: Muhammad al-Qeeq (this is his second time under administrative detention; he was previously released following a hunger strike, but was arrested again), Osama Shaheen (who ran a Palestinian radio station shut down by the army) Hassan Safadi, and Nidal Abu-Akar.

Due to the relatively high number of Palestinian journalists in administrative detention, the Union of Israeli Journalists (UIJ) began to take active steps on the issue, including organizing a conference on administrative detention. Full disclosure: I am a member of the UIJ General Secretariat, and am in charge of the team in charge of organizing the conference.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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