Israel Releases Detained Al-Jazeera Reporter

Israel releases an Al-Jazeera journalist who was arrested last month for having contact with Hamas.

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Elad Benari,

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Israel released on Monday an Al-Jazeera journalist who was arrested last month for having contact with the Hamas terror group, The Associated Press reported.

47-year-old Samer Allawi’s lawyer told AP his client had been released under a plea bargain, after he acknowledged that he attended two meetings “in or near Qatar” in 2006 and 2010 with Al-Jazeera colleagues allegedly active in Hamas. He later met senior Hamas member Osama Hamdan at a press conference.

The military prosecutor alleged that on both occasions Allawi agreed to help strengthen public support for Hamas by reporting stories that would positively portray Palestinian Authority Arabs, but said that he did not act on that due to “inability or unwillingness.”

Salim Wakim, the journalist's attorney, told AP his client was sentenced with “very, very, very trivial crimes,” adding Allawi refused the requests by Hamas. The military prosecutor had also acknowledged that Allawi never carried out the requests, saying that he acted unethically.

Wakim added that the military prosecutor found Allawi guilty of making contact with and offering services to Hamas, and he was released after paying a $1,400 fine.

Allawi is Al-Jazeera’s bureau chief in Afghanistan. He was arrested in August by Israeli soldiers as he was crossing the Allenby Bridge when he was on his way back to Kabul, after visiting family in the PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria.

Al-Jazeera reported upon his arrest that Allawi was questioned about his work and personal relationships, dating back to his schooldays in Judea and Samaria. He was also interviewed about his personal finances and asked if he had any contact with American, Jordanian or PA intelligence forces.

Investigators also reportedly asked for Allawi’s password, for his personal emails and work email.

After his release on Monday, Walid Al-Omary, Al-Jazeera’s bureau chief in Jerusalem, criticized the arrest, telling AP, “He’s a journalist. He meets with Hamas just like any other journalist.”