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Hamas military court extends detention of British journalist by 15 days

(IPI/IFEX) - 2 March 2010 - A Hamas military court has decided to extend the detention of British freelance journalist Paul Martin for at least another 15 days.

Martin, who has worked for both the BBC and London newspaper, The Times, was arrested on Sunday 14 February whilst attending the trial of Hamas militant Mohammed Abu Muaileq. Martin is accused of helping the former militant, who is on trial for collaborating with the Israeli army during the January 2009 conflict with Hamas militants in Gaza. The Palestinian defendant had featured in a documentary Martin had made about the conflict. Martin was reportedly at the court to provide a statement in Abu Muaileq's defence. Hamas claims that a confession from Abu Muaileq implicated Martin in the violation of Palestinian law and security.

Speaking to IPI, George Hale, editor of the Bethlehem-based Ma'an NewsAgency, confirmed that Martin would be held for another 15 days for further investigation and expressed concern over journalists' access to information on the case.

He said: "Our correspondent was forbidden from attending the hearing today. We do not know what is going on, but it is clearly going on behind closed doors."

According to Martin's lawyer, Sharhabil Zayim, who spoke to the Associated Press, Martin must either be charged or released once the 15-day extension has passed.

IPI Director David Dadge said: "We are very concerned at the continued detention of Paul Martin on vague charges. We are also concerned at reports of apparent efforts to withhold information by not allowing certain journalists into legal hearings."

He added: "If the international community is to have faith in Hamas judicial proceedings it must be held in a court that is open and the proceedings should be transparent to all. The fact that there appears to be no attempt to justify holding Mr. Martin leads to grave concerns that he is merely being punished for his journalism. The Hamas court must release Mr. Martin immediately or show good cause as to why he should be kept in detention."

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