Hamas releases, deports British journalist from Gaza

10:23, March 12, 2010      

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British journalist Paul Martin, who was detained in Gaza on Feb. 14, on Thursday was freed and then driven out from the Hamas-controlled coastal strip.

A Hamas police jeep dropped Martin at Erez crossing point between Gaza and Israel where the British diplomats received him.

British and South African diplomats had intervened for the release of Martin, who is also a South African national.

Sources said representatives from the two concerned countries pledged to continue alleged charges against Martin, which assured Hamas to set him free.

Taher al-Nounou, a Hamas spokesman, said Martin "is no longer welcomed here and is prevented to return to Gaza," adding Martin " has committed several crimes against the Palestinian security."

Al-Nounou said Martin's release was in response to requests from South African ambassador in the West Bank Ted Pekane, and the British consul.

The international community does not deal with Hamas which seized Gaza by force in 2007 on political or diplomatic representation.

Representatives from the British and the South African consulates met a senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar at his house prior to the announcement of Martin's release. The move was considered a step to avoid dealing with Hamas government since Zahar doesn't have a post in the deposed government.

Zahar told reporters that Martin "has committed several crimes against security, threatening the lives of Palestinians" as the film-maker had "met a group of criminals."

Martin was detained at a Hamas court after he came willingly to testify for a former Palestinian fighter for alleged collaboration with Israel. Martin had produced a documentary on that militant in the Hamas-controlled Gaza in 2008.

Zahar said Martin, through his films, wanted "to prove that the Palestinians bring weapons into Gaza" through tunnels and "use children as human shields.

Sharhabeel al-Zaeem, a lawyer, said Martin "was not guilty and he denied all charges against him." adding Martin "was doing his job like any other journalists."

Martin was not harassed during his detention but had complained about the circumstances in which he was held, al-Zaeem said.

Source: Xinhua
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