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The Government of Gaza on the arrest and detention of British Journalist Paul Martin

April 19, 2014 at 11:47 am

The recent arrest of British journalist Paul Martin has caused waves of concern in the British media. He was detained on 14 February whilst attending a military court session, to provide testimony for a Gazan man, Muhammad Abu Mu’aliq who had been arrested on suspicion of collaborating with the Israeli security services. Unbeknown to Mr. Martin, during his interrogation Abu Mu’aliq had implicated the British journalist in the alleged collaboration. As with any other country, the importance of investigating claims of espionage were imperative to Gaza’s security and so Martin was arrested immediately. His initial detention of 15 days was extended to allow investigators time to ascertain whether or not the accusations of espionage were true.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) released a statement on 2 March stating that “consular staff have been in regular contact with Mr Martin, though we are also concerned that increased restrictions are now being placed on consular access”. In fact, as soon as Martin was arrested Gaza’s Ministry of the Interior contacted the British consulate in Jerusalem and have been visiting and calling the freelance journalist ever since. He has had open access to a lawyer of his choice as well as visits by the reputable Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). The PCHR’s Director, Raji Al-Sourani, said that he had been contacted by the British Consulate to assess Martin’s general health and living conditions. He reported that although Martin complained of the conditions of his room, he had not been subjected to any verbal or physical abuse. MEMO contacted a spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice in Gaza and was told that the poor condition of Martin’s room was due to last year’s Israeli invasion of Gaza. During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli F-16s destroyed most of the prison infrastructure in Gaza, as well as most police stations and detention centres. On top which, he continued, the ongoing “inhumane siege” that is being imposed on the Palestinians in Gaza means that they lack the necessary construction materials needed to repair “a prison with an excellent level of facilities”.

The spokesperson reflected on the kidnap of the British journalist Alan Johnson, who was kidnapped by an extremist group in Gaza. The then recently elected government of Gaza made great efforts to have him released unharmed and did not tolerate suggestions of harming any foreigners, especially journalists.

In a statement to MEMO, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior in Gaza, Mr Ihab Al-Ghusain, said that the investigation had been extended and the court had allowed extra time for the Palestinian security services to carry out a rigorous investigation in order to resolve this matter. He added: “We welcome all foreign visitors, including the British people, to Gaza and we will ensure the safety and security of all visitors of good-will. However, if there is evidence that certain individuals are involved in something that is against the law and which may in turn harm the Palestinian people, we will ensure the correct application of the law.”

Finally, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said, “I hope, regardless [of] anything else, that Mr. Paul Martin will be freed sooner, not later, because we do not have any hostility towards the British people and we hope they can understand the insecure situation of our tortured people.”