British journalist Paul Martin freed by Hamas

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The Independent Online

A British journalist detained in Gaza by Hamas was released without charge today, the Foreign Office said.

Paul Martin was arrested on February 14 in a Gaza court where he was due to give evidence on behalf of a Palestinian militant charged with collaborating with Israel.



Hamas officials accused the reporter of being a security threat.



Speaking following his release, his wife Anne said: "We are extremely relieved that Paul has been released and pleased that the authorities responded to our appeals.



"Paul is an experienced and highly-regarded foreign correspondent with 30 years experience.



"He is an innocent man who went into Gaza to testify in the trial of a Palestinian whom he had interviewed for a documentary."







Mr Martin, a freelance journalist from London, is now recovering in Jerusalem.

He is expected to fly home in the next few days.



His wife added: "Paul has maintained his innocence throughout this ordeal.



"In a letter passed on to us by the International Red Cross, after 12 days without contact with the outside world, Paul emphasised that he was 'physically, mentally and spiritually fine. I am confident my innocence will be proved'."



His daughters Laura and Suzy added: "Our dad is a brave and dedicated journalist, whose passion is to give an objective and informed picture of events in conflict zones around the world.



"We are thrilled to know that he is safe and he is coming home soon".



His lawyer Sharhabeel Al Zaeem said: "He is delighted and relieved. And so am I.



"He is safe. He was given his passport back as he passed the Israeli checkpoint.



"He said they were not violent towards him."









A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that the British film-maker Paul Martin, who has been held by Hamas in Gaza for the last 26 days, was released this morning to British consular officials and is now in the care of the British Consulate in Jerusalem.

"Our consular staff in Gaza have been in regular contact with him throughout his detention.



"We have also been in regular contact with Mr Martin's family in the UK and we are sure they will be relieved to hear the news."



Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, had alleged that Mr Martin "was working on defaming the image of the Palestinian people by saying that they smuggle weapons through tunnels", referring to hundreds of border tunnels that bypass the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

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