Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:38 am (KSA) 21:38 pm (GMT)

British reporter held in Gaza by Hamas police

tPaul Martin is he first foreigner arrested by Hamas since the group seized power in Gaza in 2007 (File)
tPaul Martin is he first foreigner arrested by Hamas since the group seized power in Gaza in 2007 (File)

British officials met Monday with a detained journalist in Gaza amid calls for Hamas to release the Briton, the first foreigner the Islamists have arrested since seizing power in Gaza in 2007.

Paul Martin was arrested on Sunday in a Gaza Strip courtroom while testifying for a Palestinian friend accused of "collaborating with Israel," British officials said.

Hamas said it had received "confessions" about security crimes. It gave no details about the allegations.

 We are very concerned about the situation and we are attempting to provide consular assistance 
Spokesman for British consulate in Jerusalem

"We are very concerned about the situation and we are attempting to provide consular assistance," a spokesman for the British consulate in Jerusalem said, adding that the British authorities were in touch with Martin's family.

A spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry said Martin was being held under a 15-day detention order issued by the attorney-general in the Gaza Strip.

"He may be released or the 15 days may be extended, pending (the results) of the investigation," said the spokesman, Ehab al-Ghsain.

The Foreign Press Association (FPA), which groups journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said it was "deeply concerned" over the arrest and called on Hamas to free the reporter.

"We expect the Hamas, as we do all parties, to respect the rights of every journalist on assignment, to work without fear of being arrested," it said in a statement.

The FPA said Martin had been a freelancer in the region some five years ago and said he was also a filmmaker.

Israel's Government Press Office, which accredits foreign journalists wishing to work in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said it had issued a press card for a Cainer Paul Martin, who also has U.S. and South African passports.

Like other Western nations, Britain has long rejected any official dealings with Hamas over the Islamists' refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

London does not recognize the government Hamas established in Gaza in 2007 after it broke violently with the Palestinian Authority of West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

However, Western diplomats are regular visitors to the Gaza Strip, where much of the 1.5 million population is dependent on aid from the United Nations and other bodies.

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