Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Thursday released a British journalist held for a month amid allegations he had endangered the territory’s security.
A smiling Paul Martin was dropped off by Hamas guards near a Gaza crossing into Israel. He was handed over to British diplomats who escorted him out of the territory.
Martin, a freelance journalist, was the first foreigner to have been arrested since Hamas overran Gaza in 2007.
His detention raised concern among international organizations with staff in the territory that Hamas was adopting a more confrontational approach, after initially going out of its way to avoid friction with foreigners.
Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, said Martin was suspected of serious security offenses and would not be able to return to Gaza. No charges were filed against him.
Zahar suggested Thursday that Martin’s activities as a journalist brought about his arrest.
The Hamas leader alleged that Martin “was working on defaming the image of the Palestinian people by saying that they smuggle weapons through tunnels,” Zahar said, referring to hundreds of border tunnels that bypass the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.
The tunnels bring in commercial goods, but are widely believed to be a conduit for cash and weapons as well.
Zahar complained that Martin was also working on a story about the alleged use of civilians as human shields by Hamas.
The Hamas leader also alleged Martin was in touch with Gazans suspected of collaborating with Israel.
Martin had entered Gaza on Feb. 14, intending to testify on behalf of a former Gaza militant who was on trial as an alleged informer for Israel. Instead of addressing the military court, Martin was taken into custody. Martin had been working on a documentary about the accused collaborator.
Martin has produced reports for the British Broadcasting Corp. and The Times of London.AP