An international press watchdog on Saturday expressed deep concern over Israel’s arrest and deportation of an Anadolu Agency photographer, Mustafa al-Kharouf.
“We are concerned that Mr. Kharouf’s arrest on January 22 and the subsequent decision to deport are based on his work as a journalist reporting on issues that are inconvenient to the Israeli government,” Scott Griffen, deputy director of Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), said in a letter to Aryeh Deri, Israel’s interior minister.
“The [Israeli] government has not provided any reason for his arrest and there are no criminal cases pending against him,” wrote Griffen.
On January 22, Kharouf was arrested by the Israeli police. Since then, he has been held at a deportation center for illegal foreign migrants.
Since Kharouf was born in Algeria, Israeli prosecutors are calling for his expulsion from the West Bank to neighbouring Jordan, despite the fact that his family hails from Jerusalem.
Kharouf has a type of Jordanian passport that only allows him to travel to neighboring Arab countries but does not grant him citizenship or residency rights in Jordan.
Griffen urged Deri to uphold human rights and defend press freedom by ensuring Kharouf is released from prison and the deportation withdrawn.
“We are extremely concerned that if deported, Mr. Kharouf will have no country to go as he is technically a stateless person,” he said.
And separating him from his family, Griffen added, would “constitute a gross violation of human rights and be seen as an attempt to silence a journalist.”
Kharouf has worked for Anadolu Agency as a photographer since last August.