Egypt Frees Israeli Journalist Who Tried to Infiltrate Border

Yotam Feldman, who also works for Haaretz, was preparing a piece on illegal immigration for Ch. 10.

Egyptian military prosecutors on Sunday released from custody Israeli journalist Yotam Feldman, who was arrested this week while accompanying African refugees trying to slip into Israel.

An Egyptian official told Haaretz late last week that the state prosecution had yet to decide whether Feldman, 30, would stand trial before a military court on charges of illegally crossing the border.

Such a trial would have led to a one-year sentence of imprisonment, but Feldman was instead released at the end of his interrogation.

Feldman, who tried to cross the border illegally with a Ghanaian citizen, was arrested on Sunday along a route used by smugglers who help African migrants into Israel, officials said.

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

Feldman flew to Tel Aviv at midnight on Monday and was met by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

"What happened to me in an inextricable part of the job of a journalist, who goes out on a mission to reveal the heroic actions that people are forced to do in order to preserve their humanity," Feldman said upon arrival in Israel.

Feldman works as a journalist for a number of publications, including Haaretz. He was on a 10-day leave from the newspaper and preparing a report for Israel's Channel 10 television at the time of his arrest.

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 Egyptian authorities said during interrogation that they viewed Feldman's actions as serious.

"With African infiltrators, it is obvious that their actions come from distress and so they are promptly deported back to their countries of origin," the Egyptian said. "But Feldman tried to cross knowing it was an offense in an attempt to show that the border is unguarded."