GAZA City, Gaza Strip, (AP) – Hamas officials in Gaza said Monday that a British journalist has been ordered held for 15 days, an unprecedented step against a foreign reporter since the Islamic militants seized control of Gaza in 2007.
Documentary filmmaker Paul Martin was detained Sunday at a Gaza courthouse where he was to have testified on behalf of a defendant accused of collaborating with Israel, said Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ehab Ghussein.
Ghussein said in a statement that Martin is suspected of breaking Palestinian law, but did not elaborate.
He said Martin met with a British consular official Sunday and had chosen a local lawyer to represent him.
Gaza’s attorney general ordered Martin held for 15 days, Ghussein said.
The spokesman said the arrest warrant was prompted by the confession of a defendant charged with collaborating with Israel. The defendant “has confessed against the British journalist and said he (Martin) violated Palestinian law and the security in Gaza,” Ghussein said.
The arrest of Martin was an unprecedented step by Hamas against a foreign journalist. Hamas has prided itself in ending the lawlessness of vigilante gunmen, and has largely stayed clear of foreign journalists since seizing the territory in 2007. It was not immediately clear whether Martin’s arrest signaled a change in policy.
The Interior Ministry statement said foreigners are welcome in Gaza, but that “anyone who tries to violate the security of Gaza will be held accountable.”
In Jerusalem, a spokeswoman for the British consulate said that the British government was “very concerned” and had been in touch with Martin’s family. She spoke on customary condition of anonymity.