Watchdog demands Israel free Anadolu Agency journalist

A major journalists' group on Tuesday reiterated its demand that Israel release an Anadolu Agency photographer and he should be allowed to stay in the West Bank.

"We call for nothing less than Mustafa Al-Kharouf's release and the complete withdrawal of deportation proceedings against him," Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a written statement.

"The Israeli justice system must stop blocking recognition of his status as a resident and must not treat his photos as a sign of bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," it added.

Kharouf, 32, was detained by Israeli police Jan. 22. He was slated for deportation May 5 in line with an Israeli court ruling.

But he was reportedly told on the day of his deportation he would be sent to Jordan the following day.

His lawyer, Adi Lustigman, from Israel's HaMoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, a rights advocacy group, filed a request with Israel's Supreme Court to postpone the scheduled deportation.

The court ruled to freeze the deportation order until it had a chance to hear the lawyer's appeal.

Kharouf was born in Algeria and Israeli prosecutors want his expulsion from the occupied West Bank to neighboring Jordan -- despite the fact that his family hails from Jerusalem.

For the last 20 years, the Israeli authorities have consistently refused to grant Kharouf a long-term residency permit, forcing him to obtain fresh tourist visas each year.

In earlier remarks to Anadolu Agency, Lustigman said his client lived in the West Bank since he was 12 years old.

He has lived in East Jerusalem for more than 20 years, where he has a Palestinian mother and a Palestinian wife, and is not a citizen of any other country, Lustigman said.

While Kharouf holds a Jordanian passport that allows him to travel to neighboring Arab states, it does not give him citizenship or residency rights in Jordan.

Since last August of last year, Kharouf has worked for Anadolu Agency as a photographer.

Israel occupied the West Bank, which international law still regards as "occupied territory" in 1967.

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