Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:34 am (KSA) 21:34 pm (GMT)

Hamas releases British journalist in Gaza

Paul Martin is to be freed without charge or penalty
Paul Martin is to be freed without charge or penalty

Paul Martin, a British freelance journalist arrested by Hamas in the Gaza Strip last month and held on suspicion of espionage for Israel, was released on Thursday, his lawyer and a Palestinian official said.

Martin was detained on Feb. 14 while in Hamas-run Gaza to give evidence in a court case. His lawyer, Sharhabeel al-Zaeem, told Reuters he expected Martin to be freed without charge or penalty and to be handed over to British consular officials.

He would leave Gaza for Israel later in the day.

Britain has expressed concern over Martin's case, as has the Foreign Press Association, which said he had been freelancing in the region for the past five years and was also a filmmaker.

A spokesperson for the British consulate in Jerusalem would not immediately comment on Monday's decision.

The interior ministry has accused Martin of "violating Palestinian law and security in the Gaza Strip" without providing further details.

Hamas, which swept the last Palestinian parliamentary elections held in January 2006, is blacklisted by Israel and the West as a "terrorist organisation."

In June 2007, the Islamists seized power in Gaza after driving out forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in a week of deadly street battles.

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