JERUSALEM, April 17 (UPI) -- Journalist and political activist Majd Kayyal was arrested by the Israel Police when he returned from a three-week visit to Lebanon and charged with visiting a hostile country and contacting foreign agents.
Kayyal, 23, a resident of Haifa, Israel, attended a conference in Beirut honoring the As-Safir newspaper -- an event to which journalists from around the world were invited. Israelis are forbidden from visiting Lebanon.
After his arrest, Kayyal said he did nothing to harm Israel’s security and did not commit a crime.
“I don’t see Lebanon as a hostile country. The suspicions of my meeting with a foreign agent have no basis whatsoever,” he said. He added he expected to be questioned when he returned, but not arrested.
Kayyal has become well-liked in Israel’s Arab community, particularly among the young. He has published articles about Palestinian issues and in As-Safir, which has a distinctly nationalist slant in Lebanon.
Attorney Aram Mahameed, who met with Kayyal, said the visit to Beirut was not a secret, and that he rejects allegations he met with a “suspicious person” while there.
Arab journalists, including the Palestinian Journalists Union, have called for Kayyal’s release.