30 October 2007
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the prolonged detention of journalist Ata Farahat, who was arrested on 30 July and is being held in Al-Jalama prison (14 km southeast of Haifa). The organisation has been told he could be prosecuted for “collaborating with an enemy nation” but this has never been confirmed by the Israeli authorities.
“Three months have gone by since Farahat’s arrest and we fail to understand the Israeli judicial system’s refusal to release him on bail,” Reporters Without Borders said. “By forbidding the Israeli media to cover this case, the judicial authorities have freed themselves of any responsibility. The only possible explanation for this shocking decision is the existence of questionable aspects to the judicial procedures used in this case.”
Since his arrest, Farahat has been brought several times before an investigation judge in Tel Aviv who has refused to free him provisionally pending trial. Several unofficial sources have said he is to be prosecuted for “collaborating with an enemy nation” as a result of his relations with the Syrian news media. The gag order imposed on the Israeli media and on his lawyers indicates that the charges against him are serious.
A member of Farahat’s family told Reporters Without Borders that his lawyers had also requested a form of provisional release in which he would remain under house arrest, but this was also rejected by the judge in charge of the case on 23 October. The trial has been postponed until 15 November.
Aged 35 and a graduate of the Damascus school of journalism, Farahat was working for several Syrian news media, including the daily newspaper Al-Watan and public televison.
Reporters Without Borders wrote to the Israeli justice minister on 1 October asking for an explanation for Farahat’s prolonged detention. The organisation has not yet got a reply.