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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2792

Journalist Association Protests Attack on IPS Reporter

New York, 11 July, (Asiantribune.com): The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed "alarm" over the harsh treatment meted out to award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer who was said to have been abused by Israeli Shin Bet agents at the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Israel and Jordan late last month.

The 24-year-old journalist was a reporter for Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and for Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said that Omer was stopped by men he identified as Shin Bet agents at the Allenby crossing and held for a number of hours after entering Israel en route to his home in the Gaza Strip, the journalist told CPJ.

Omer had been returning from a nearly three-week trip to Europe, where he met with members of the European Parliament and collected the Martha Gelhorn Prize for Journalism in London in recognition of his reporting in the Gaza Strip.

Omer said the Shin Bet agents harassed him and demanded he present the money he was carrying. He said the agents appeared interested in the 2,500 British pound award he received for his Gelhorn Prize. (He did not have that money with him.)

He said that during the interrogation agents stripped him naked at gunpoint and ordered him to shuffle his feet to humiliate him. When Omer fell ill and fainted from stress, agents applied painful pressure with their fingers to different parts of his body including his eyelids, he said.

While the journalist was on the ground, one agent pressed with full weight on Omer’s chest and another pressed a boot heel against his throat. At one point, the men dragged Omer across the floor, causing his head to bounce on the hard surface, he said.

The journalist said he was eventually placed in a Palestinian ambulance and taken to Jericho Hospital in the West Bank, where he received treatment for stress and broken ribs. He said he suffers from neck pain and has difficulty breathing and swallowing.

According to press reports, the Shin Bet alleged that Omer was treated well and not subject to “extraordinary measures.” Israeli officials told Inter Press Service that Omer was not mistreated and that he merely "lost his balance" after he was searched on suspicion of “smuggling in illegal items.”

Israel’s embassy in Washington, DC, did not return CPJ’s calls today requesting clarification.

- Asian Tribune -

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