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Israel arrests Al Jazeera's Afghanistan bureau chief
By OREN KESSLER
16/08/2011
Palestinian Samer Allawi detained after visiting family in W. Bank on suspicion of links to Hamas.
 
Israel has arrested Al Jazeera’s Afghanistan bureau chief, a Palestinian, on charges of ties to Hamas.

Samer Allawi, 46, was picked up August 10 on the border between the West Bank and Jordan, the Arabic-language satellite station said Tuesday.

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Allawi was detained August 10 after a three-week visit with family in Sebastia, a village adjacent to Nablus. He had been remanded by an Israeli military court a week after being taken into custody while trying to cross from the West Bank into Jordan in order to return to Afghanistan.

An Israeli security official confirmed Allawi’s arrest and court appearance but gave no further details on the case.

Walied Al-Omary, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said the military court accused Allawi of making contact with members of Hamas’s armed wing.

Al Jazeera Arabic’s website posted footage of Allawi appearing in court in an Israel Prison Services uniform.

“There is nothing in this investigation that I believe harms Israel, like it is being claimed, or has any relationship with my work in this entire region,” he told the judge.

Al Jazeera’s relationship with Israeli authorities in recent years has been fraught.

In 2008 Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Wahabi said Jerusalem would deny visas to Al Jazeera employees, and prohibit officials from speaking to the network, due to what he described as its biased coverage in favor of Hamas.

The following year Israel imposed sanctions on Al Jazeera after its home base of Qatar closed the Israeli trade office in the country to protest the Gaza offensive.

Since then, Al Jazeera employees’ access has been restricted to spokespeople from the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry and IDF Spokesman’s Unit.

An article posted Tuesday on the Al Jazeera Arabic website referred nine times to Israeli “occupation authorities,” and the network’s English website said Allawi was being held in a ”prison camp at Petah Tikva detention center.”
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