(Haifa, Israel) Today, 17 April 2014 at 12 noon, the Haifa Magistrates’ Court lifted a gag order on the arrest of Mr. Majd Kayyal, a freelance journalist and a web editor at Adalah, who was detained on Saturday 12 April 2014 while crossing from Jordan to Israel. Kayyal was returning from a conference in Beirut, Lebanon that he independently attended after receiving an invitation to mark the 40th anniversary of the "As-Safir" newspaper, to which he has been a frequent contributor for about two years. The gag order was lifted following an urgent motion submitted on 16 April 2014 by Adalah in its own name and on behalf of the I'lam Center, and journalists Wade' Awawdeh, Jackie Khoury, Khulood Masalha, and Yoav Etiel.
Kayyal denied the right to meet with his lawyers for 5 days
The day after his arrest, on 13 April 2014, Kayyal was brought before the Haifa Magistrates’ Court for an extension of detention hearing; the police ordered a prohibition on meeting with lawyers for one day and sought to extend his detention for 15 days. Kayyal was unable to meet with his attorneys in court, and he was brought separately before the judge. The court ordered Mr. Kayyal detained for eight days until 22 April; and later, the police subsequently extended the ban on meeting with lawyers until 16 April. Kayyal is being charged with "contact with a foreign agent" and "visiting an enemy state".
On 15 April 2014, the court rejected an appeal by Adalah against the ban on meeting with lawyers. Adalah Attorneys Aram Mahameed and Fady Khoury argued in the appeal that the prevention of meeting with a lawyer was a direct violation of Kayyal's constitutional right to an attorney and to a fair judicial process. The meeting with a lawyer was necessary to ensure that security authorities would not use interrogation techniques that could constitute acts of torture or ill-treatment against the detainee, while cutting him off from the outside world.
Adalah added that Kayyal faced multiple rights violations: the ban on meeting with a lawyer, the extension of his detention without clear justification, and the sweeping gag order on the case. Altogether, these actions completely undermined Kayyal's right to a fair judicial process.
UPDATE: Last night for the first time in 5 days, Adalah lawyers were permitted to meet with Kayyal at the GSS detention center after the ban on meeting with lawyers expired. Kayyal informed his lawyers that since the beginning of his detention, he has been held in a cell with very poor conditions. The cell does not have a bed or a window for sunlight. The cell is lit with a bright yellow light 24 hours a day, to the extent that Kayyal lost track of the time and day. Kayyal also went through very long hours of intensive investigations, including questions about his personal life. The investigation revolved around his trip to Beirut, which Kayyal had publicized on his social media pages. He was also interrogated about his meetings with a number of participants at the As-Safir conference he attended. Kayyal told the investigators that all of his meetings in Beirut fell within the context of his work as a journalist. During the interrogation, Kayyal underwent a polygraph test, which showed that he was telling the truth.
Despite his detention, Kayyal appeared to be in high spirits, and was able to describe the investigation in detail to his lawyers. As a result of the meeting, Adalah will file an appeal to the court to seek his release from detention; under current orders, he is currently detained until Tuesday 22 April 2014.
Illegality of the Gag Order
Adalah argued in the motion against the gag order that there was no legal justification to ban the publication of the case in the Israeli media. Kayyal's visit to Beirut was publicized on his personal Facebook page, as well as other websites following his travels. The news about his arrest had also already been published in multiple international newspapers, websites and social media sites prior to the issuance of the gag order. Therefore, issuing a sweeping ban on Israeli media only contributes to Israel's efforts in preventing a legitimate public and political debate about these issues. The gag order also gave the Shin Bet (GSS, Shabak) an opportunity to conduct its investigations in secret, which is against all principles of fair due process.
Core issue is the right of Palestinian citizens to travel to Arab countries
In Adalah’s view, the core issue is the prohibition on Palestinian citizens of Israel from entering numerous Arab countries, which in this case prevents journalists like Kayyal from enjoying their right to work, communicate and be in physical contact with Arab journalists and Arabic language newspapers. The Emergency Regulations Law-1948 and the Israeli Infiltration Law-1954 apply a sweeping prohibition on entering several Arab and Muslim countries, including Lebanon, which are defined as "enemy states". Applications to the Israeli Interior Ministry by Arab citizens for permits to travel to these countries are generally refused regardless of the trip’s purpose such as family visits, professional trips or cultural events. These laws affect all Palestinian citizens in Israel and violate their right under international law as a national minority to maintain their relations with their own people. Moreover, the crimes for which Kayyal is accused of are essentially the fulfillment of his duty as a journalist, and his rights to freedom of movement and freedom of expression.
For foreign media coverage of the case:
For more information, please contact Salah Mohsen, Adalah’s Media Director, at [email protected], or +972-52-595-0922