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Israel extends Al-Jazeera journalist's detention; no charges filed

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, August 17, 2011 - The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by Israel's continued detention of Al-Jazeera journalist Samer Allawi, who has been held without charge for eight days.

"Israeli authorities must publicly explain and provide evidence as to why they continue to hold Samer Allawi," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Being a journalist is not a crime."

Authorities detained Allawi, the network's Kabul bureau chief, on August 9 at al-Karama border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. Allawi, a Palestinian who carries a Jordanian passport, was arrested while leaving the Occupied Territories after a three-week vacation in his hometown near Nablus.

On Tuesday, a week after his arrest, he appeared before a military judge, Al-Jazeera reported. Although Allawi was not charged with a crime, the judge extended the detention for seven days, after which he must appear before the same court, his lawyer told CPJ.

The lawyer, Salim Waqeem, said Allawi has been interrogated about his work, personal finances, and his relationships with colleagues, friends, and family. During the 25-minute court hearing, authorities cited a "secret report by Israeli intelligence" accusing Allawi of membership in Hamas and having ties with its military wing, Al-Jazeera reported. During the hearing, Allawi disputed the allegations, called his detention arbitrary, and said authorities were "fishing for information to convict me or Al-Jazeera."

Waqeem told CPJ the allegations were prompted by Allawi's refusal to provide information to intelligence agents about his work and contacts in Afghanistan. Military prosecutors also accused Allawi of having ties to the Taliban, Waqeem told CPJ. He said Israel's military code - under which all Palestinian suspects are tried - enables authorities to extend the detention without having to charge the journalist with a crime.

CPJ has previously urged Israel to bring its practices, particularly as applied to Palestinian journalists who are subjected to military tribunals instead of civilian courts, in line with international standards for press freedom.

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