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Palestinian journalist assaulted, injured; film editor held without charge; three other journalists arrested, released by Israeli police

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned the abusive behaviour by Israeli security agents towards Palestinian journalists moving around the Territories or returning from visits abroad.

The worldwide press freedom organisation said it had recorded five incidents of wrongful arrest over a recent 10-day period. One journalist is still being held, while another needed hospital treatment after being subjected to brutality and humiliation at an Israeli checkpoint by members of Shin Bet (Israeli internal security service).

Omer al-Mughaier, aged 24, was stopped by Shin Bet agents on 26 June 2008 after crossing on the Allenby Bridge, one of the borders posts between Israel and Jordan. He told Reporters Without Borders that he was forced to strip naked and to undergo a humiliating body search.

He was questioned for several hours about his trips to Europe. "I was hit in the face and the chest until I lost consciousness. I was then taken to a hospital in Ramallah before being able to come back to Gaza two hours later with the help of Dutch diplomats", said the journalist who was left with broken ribs and bruises to the body.

The journalist works for several foreign publications and was returning from a work visit to Europe where on 16 June he was awarded the Martha Gelhorn prize in London. On his return he had to wait several days in Jordan for permission to return to his home town of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

"The behaviour of Israeli security services towards Mohammed Omer al-Mughaier is unacceptable. The journalist obeyed every one of the Shin Bet agents' orders. But despite that, they had no hesitation in using violence against him and humiliating him."

"We urge the Israeli authorities to accept their responsibility for this abuse, because this type of harassment is never punished", Reporters Without Borders said.

The organisation also called for the release of Fouad Farukh a film editor with the Palestinian news agency Ramattan News, held without charge by Israeli police for more than one week.

He was with a group of four journalists and technicians working for the agency who were arrested at the Zaatara crossing near Nablus on the West Bank as they were heading to Nablus in a vehicle marked TV. The soundman Nubul Nabil and journalist Mohammed Marbu were released after six hours in custody while cameraman Rami Jahajha was only freed on 29 June.

The four men had wrongly been accused of throwing stones at an Israeli settler, an allegation they immediately denied while they were held at the Ben Yamin police post, to which they were taken with their feet and wrists bound.

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