An Arab-Israeli journalist was released to house arrest on Thursday, days after he was arrested after returning from Lebanon, where he attended a conference for a newspaper he writes for.
In addition to his five days of house arrest, Majd Kayyal is banned from using the Internet for 20 days and is subject to a travel ban.
On Thursday, the Haifa Magistrate’s Court lifted a gag order on the arrest of Kayyal, a freelance journalist who was taken into custody while trying to enter Israel from Jordan after having spent almost three weeks in Lebanon.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said a few hours before Kayyal’s release on Thursday that the 24-year-old Haifa native had used a travel document from the Palestinian Authority to journey from Amman to Beirut on March 24, and that there was suspicion that a Lebanese terrorist organization may have tried to recruit him. They pointed out that Kayyal had participated in a small Gaza protest flotilla in 2011, sailing toward the coastal territory before Israeli authorities arrested and questioned him.
Following his trip to Lebanon, Kayyal could face charges of traveling to an enemy state.
According to Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, where Kayyal worked as an editor on the website, the journalist was barred from meeting with his lawyers from April 13 to 16, including at the remand hearing a day after his arrest. The organization said this was a direct violation of Kayyal’s right to an attorney and a fair judicial process. Adalah accused the state of violating his rights by detaining him “without clear justification” and by securing a sweeping gag order that prevented the publication of details on his case in the Israeli media.
Kayyal openly wrote about his trip to Beirut on social media and in a post in Arabic on the website “Jadaliyya” titled “The First Time in Beirut.” In the piece, Kayyal, who was in the city to attend a conference marking the 40th anniversary of the founding of As-Safir, the Lebanese paper he writes for, described the experience of visiting Beirut as an Arab Israeli.
Kayyal says of Beirut that “as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, you can see the city as all that is forbidden to you,” before adding, “but as a Palestinian you are not a tourist.” He then described how the street names, the music, and the general environment felt like home, in particular to Arabs from Haifa.
Israelis who travel to Lebanon face the possibility of prosecution upon return to Israel, though a significant number of Israeli journalists with non-Israeli passports have traveled to Lebanon and other enemy states in recent years.
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