Reporters Without Borders has condemned the detention of Reuters cameraman Imad Mohammad Bornat by the Israeli authorities over the past two weeks and his possible mistreatment at the time of his arrest on 6 October 2006 in the West Bank village of Bil’in. The organisation also condemned the severe beating, which Agence France Presse photographer Jaafar Ashtiyeh and two of his assistants received on 1 October at a checkpoint at Hawara, near the city of Nablus.
Bornat, who is accused of throwing stones at a border policeman while filming him, had a head wound that needed several stitches by the time he arrived under escort at the nearest police station. The officers who were escorting him in a jeep said a radio set fell on his head.
“Neither Bornat’s alleged attack on Israeli personnel nor the explanation regarding his injury given by the officers who took him to the police station seem credible,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We hope the investigation requested by a judge will be thorough, and thereby help put a stop to the widespread sense of impunity within the Israeli security forces.”
Bornat was arrested after filming Israeli soldiers arrive in Bil’in, which is often the scene of clashes between the Israeli army and its inhabitants. The villagers stage demonstrations every week in protest against the route of Israel’s protective wall, which will take up more than half of the village’s farm lands and destroy some of its wells. Bornat was taken to Hadassah-Har Hatzofim hospital before being taken to the Givat Zeev police station.
He is being investigated for “attacking an officer.” He has already appeared three times before a judge who is considering his request for provisional release. His lawyer, Gaby Larski, told Reporters Without Borders he expected the judge would soon approve the request subject to Bornat being placed under house arrest in some other place than Bil’in. The judge has also requested a special investigation into the cause of the injuries to Bornat’s forehead.
A native of Bil’in, Bornat has filmed many of the clashes that have taken place in his village. His videotapes have been used in the past as evidence to clear Palestinians of charges of attacking Israeli military personnel.
Update: 20 October
The judge in charge of the case of detained Reuters cameraman Emad Mohammad Bornat agreed on 18 October to release him on bail of 30,000 shekels (5,300 euros), subject to his remaining under house arrest in a village near Bil’in, the West Bank village where he has his home.
Bornat is still being held by the Israeli Defence Force, which arrested him on 6 October, because it has until Sunday afternoon to appeal against his release.
His lawyer, Gaby Lasky, said he thought it was unlikely that the judge’s decision would be overturned on appeal, and that there was therefore every chance that his client would be freed after two weeks in detention.