Egypt frees Israeli reporter a week after arrest

Monday 22 March 2010 08:46

An Israeli journalist detained by Egyptian border guards a week ago has been released and repatriated, the Israeli embassy said on Monday.

Yotam Feldman, 30, told police he had entered Egypt's Sinai peninsula legally to track African migrants seeking work or asylum in Israel when arrested.

"We did everything possible to release him," embassy spokesman Elie Antebi said, confirming the release.

Israel's Army Radio said Feldman flew to Tel Aviv at midnight and was met by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Feldman's father, civil liberties lawyer Avigdor Feldman, told the radio his son had been beaten by Egyptian police.

"The plan wasn't for him to be caught and beaten up by the Egyptians," he said. "The plan was for him to come back with footage of a phenomenon that is really unfamiliar to us, that of African refugees who cross the border."

The Sinai border is a major transit route for African migrants and refugees seeking work or asylum in Israel. Egypt has come under pressure from Israel to stem the flow, while rights groups complain about the methods of the border police.

Egyptian police have killed nine migrants trying to make the trek so far this year, while at least 19 were killed last year.

The journalist said he had paid refugee smuggling gangs to let him witness their operations, and agreed to slip back into Israel with the migrants.

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