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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 07:20 GMT 08:20 UK
Irishman's arrest 'a mistake'
Seán O Muireagáin is being detained by Israeli security forces
Seán O Muireagáin is being detained by Israeli security forces
The Israeli authorities are still to make an official announcement on the detention of a Belfast man arrested on the West Bank.

Seán O Muireagáin, 40, from west Belfast, was arrested on Saturday by Israeli security forces reportedly acting on information from UK security services.

On Tuesday, Israli radio reported that the arrest was a "mistake".

The station quoted officials saying that there were "increasing doubts" that the man who was arrested near Ramallah was the person Israeli police had intended to detain.

There have been calls for his release amid claims he is an Irish language journalist and promoting a cultural exchange project.

On Tuesday night, Mr O Muireagáin's friends and family took to the streets of west Belfast calling for him to be freed.

The radio station, the Voice of Israel external service in Jerusalem, reported earlier on Tuesday that this could be a "case of mistaken identity".

The station said government officials had confirmed a mistake was made, but there has been no official announcement.

Consular access

His family and friends said the allegations against him were a complete fabrication.

The British Embassy said it had not been able to officially identify who was detained by the Israelis.

The Foreign Office said in a statement on Tuesday that they were aware of the detention of a British national.

A request for consular access by the Foreign Office was denied on Monday, however a fresh request was being made.

The editor of a daily Irish language newspaper said Mr O Muireagáin was working as its correspondent, whilst a Palestinian support group said he was one of its members.

The detained man's parents, John and Teresa Morgan, have said they were shocked by the arrest of their son, who is known to them as John.

His mother said she just wanted him home.

"It's only a matter of the Israelis putting their hands up and saying: 'We've got the wrong man, we're letting him go home,'" she said.

"But it seems that they are not very fond of doing this."

His father said his son was in the country on a cultural visit to forge exchange links with schools.

He is a well-known Irish language and Palestine Solidarity Committee activist in Belfast
Ciaran O Pronntaigh
Irish language newspaper Lá

On Tuesday, Conor Kennedy of the Ireland Palestinian Group said they were still waiting for more information.

On Monday, Pilib Mistéil, the principal of west Belfast Irish language school Bunscoil an tSleibhe Dhuibh, called for Mr O Muireagáin to be released, saying he was the chairman of its board of governors.

He said: "We had agreed to task him with linking our school with a primary school in Jenin."

Ciaran O Pronntaigh of the Belfast Irish language paper, Lá, said the allegations made against the man were "rubbish".

"He is a well-known Irish language and Palestine Solidarity Committee activist in Belfast and was reporting from Jenin for Lá and Raidió na Gaeltachta," he said.

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said the man was in the West Bank on a cultural exchange project, had last heard from him on Saturday and was worried for his safety.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Mervyn Jess reports
"Israeli radio were first to break news that security officials were having second thoughts about the arrest"



SEE ALSO:
Calls to free Irish reporter
15 Jul 03  |  Northern Ireland
Irish reporter held in Israel
14 Jul 03  |  Northern Ireland


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