State Department on Detained U.S. Student: We're Aware of Her Case, Decision Up to Israel

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Lara Alqasem.
Lara Alqasem. Credit: ,AP

A U.S. State Department spokesperson commented Tuesday on the case of 22-year-old Palestinian-American student Lara Alqasem who has been held in Israel for over a week over her alleged activism on behalf of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement.

"We are aware of her case. Our embassy is providing consular access as we would to all American citizens," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in response to a query by a reporter during a press briefing. 

"We value freedom of expression…also in cases where people don't agree with local policies or even United States policies," Nauret added.

Nonetheless, the spokeswoman added that "ultimately it is up to the government of Israel to decided who it wants to let into the country."

>> Read more: University chiefs stand by U.S. student held in Israel: Her arrest causes country damage ■Free Lara Alqasem, the U.S. student detained at Ben-Gurion Airport | Editorial

Alqasem has been held at the Ben Gurion Airport after being flagged as a BDS activist, despite previously being issued one-year A2 student visa.

Alqasem was enrolled as an MA student in human rights at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.   

Earlier Tuesday, Professors from the University of Florida urged Israel to release alumnus Lara Alqasem

The lecturers described Alqasem as a deeply curious, open-minded young person who was eager to learn more about Israel as a graduate student. They also questioned Israel’s accusations of her alleged activities.

“Her predicament is nothing short of the Kafkaesque. Although she has come to Israel to study justice, she now finds herself in limbo and held in custody, accused by faceless individuals by virtue of her presumed associations with the BDS movement,” wrote Eric Kligerman, a professor of Jewish and German Studies at the university. He taught Alqasem in two Jewish studies seminars, one of them about the Holocaust.

She graduated from the university last spring.

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