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US editor for Palestinian agency 'expelled from Israel'

Jared Malsin (Picture provided by Maan)
Maan said Malsin sounded 'shaken and confused' as he left

A US journalist with a Palestinian news agency has been expelled after Israel refused him entry and detained him for a week, the agency says.

But Israel's Interior Ministry says Jared Malsin made his own choice to leave, including dropping his legal bid to reverse the entry denial.

Maan, the news agency, has raised concerns that Mr Malsin's decision may have been made "under duress".

Israel denies claims that the entry denial was linked to Mr Malsin's work.

Mr Malsin, the English language editor at the West Bank-based agency, had been detained since he returned from a holiday in Prague eight days ago.

The Israeli Interior Ministry says he was denied entry for failing to co-operate under questioning.

Maan earlier said the decision could "only be explained as a retaliatory measure for his reporting on Palestine".

On Tuesday Maan said it had won a legal bid to secure a hearing on the case.

It said its lawyer had filed a request to allow Mr Malsin to leave Israel, rather than stay in detention at the airport, while his appeal was heard.

But soon afterwards, Maan said its lawyer was shocked to hear the court had received a notification, signed by Mr Malsin, asking for his appeal to be withdrawn.

It said it was "deeply concerned" there was no lawyer present when Mr Malsin apparently signed the document, and it was "inexplicable" that he would knowingly drop the legal challenge.

"Without jumping to conclusions, Maan wants to be sure these events did not take place under duress," the agency said.

Mr Malsin has been unable to comment while in transit, but a colleague said he sounded "shaken and confused" when he called briefly on Wednesday to say he was due to be flown to New York.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said Mr Malsin had waited in detention in the airport until a court hearing could be secured.

"He apparently did not like this and chose to leave the country," she said.

Incorrect visa

When Mr Malsin was initially detained, Israeli security officials said security concerns had arisen when he was questioned.

An official report on the questioning, which Maan said it had received during legal proceedings, accused Mr Malsin of failing to arrange the correct visa, but did not give details.

It said he was suspected of "exploiting the fact that he is Jewish to gain a visa".

This was apparently on the basis that, when seeking a visa extension previously, he had told Interior Ministry officials he was exploring the option of emigrating to Israel but had written articles critical of the country.

By law Jews from around the world are eligible to emigrate to Israel.

The report also said Mr Malsin had refused to give the name of the friend he said he lived with in the West Bank.

Press freedom advocates have condemned the Israeli decision to refuse him entry.

The International Federation of Journalists said it was an "intolerable violation of press freedom" and "appeared to be a reprisal measure for the journalist's independent reporting".

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said last week that allegations that the decision was because of Mr Malsin's journalism were "simply absurd".

Foreign nationals working or volunteering with Palestinian organisations in the West Bank often complain of difficulty obtaining visas.

Many are present on three-month tourist visas, which do not provide permission to work and may not be extended.



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