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Release of Al Jazeera journalists held by Israelis

July 7, 2009

The two Al Jazeera journalists who were arrested on 30 June have been released from Ramleh prison, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Jordanian Othman Al-Battiri was freed on 5 June as a result of his lawyer′s intervention and returned to Jordan by the Allenby Bridge border crossing. Yemeni Mansour Al-Ibbi was released this morning.

The chief of the Al Jazeera bureau in Israel, Majid Khader, said the two journalists were pressured by the Israeli authorities to admit to entering Israel illegally. "But they did not enter Israel illegally," he said. "They were aboard the Spirit of Humanity covering an operation heading for Gaza. They were forced to come ashore."

All the people aboard the Spirit of Humanity who were arrested on 30 June after the ship′s interception by the Israeli navy were released in the course of the past two days.


3 July 2009 - Two Al Jazeera journalists held by Israeli authorities since 30 June

Reporters Without Borders condemns the detention of two journalists employed by the Qatar-based satellite TV station Al Jazeera, who were aboard the "Spirit of Humanity", a ship carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, when it was intercepted by the Israeli navy on 30 June.

"Othman Al-Battiri and Mansour Al-Ibbi were aboard the `Spirit of Humanity′ as journalists, not for activist reasons," Reporters Without Borders said. "They must be freed at once."

The ship, which was chartered by the Free Gaza human rights group, was boarded by the Israeli navy at 3 p.m. on 30 June as it was approaching Gaza′s territorial waters and was escorted to the Israeli port of Ashdod (located just to the north of the Gaza Strip). All those aboard, including the two Al Jazeera journalists, were taken to a detention centre near Ben Gurion international airport.

"We expect them to be deported in the next few days, but we want a guarantee that everything aboard the ship will be returned to us," a Free Gaza activist told Reporters Without Borders.

The "Spirit of Humanity" left Cyprus on 29 June with 21 human rights activists from 11 countries aboard. They included Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, a co-winner of the Nobel peace prize in 1977, and former US Representative Cynthia McKinney. It was also carrying three tons of medical supplies, toys and material for the repair and rebuilding of 20 houses.

"The aim of this aid was to circumvent the blockade that Israel has imposed on the Gaza Strip since June 2007 and to symbolically help reconstruction in Gaza following the 22-day Israeli military operation in the territory," the Free Gaza activist told Reporters Without Borders.

For more information contact:
Reporters without Borders
Phone: 33 1 44 83 84 84

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