Calls to free Irish reporter
There have been calls for the release of a Belfast man held by Israeli police amid claims he was a journalist and promoting a cultural exchange project.

Seán O Muireagáin, 40, was arrested at the weekend by Israeli security forces reportedly acting on information from UK security services.

The west Belfast man was arrested near the town of Ramallah.

The editor of a daily Irish language newspaper said he was working as its correspondent, whilst a Palestinian support group said he was one of its members.

Mr O Muireagáin's parents, John and Teresa Morgan, said they had been shocked by the arrest of their son, who is known to them as John.

His father said his son was in the country on a cultural visit to forge exchange links with schools.

Ciaran O Pronntaigh
Irish language newspaper Lá
He said he had no confirmation from the British or Irish Embassy that his son had been arrested.

"He is completely culture, Irish, his whole life is Irish/Gaelic. He is a governor of schools.

"Nobody has informed us of anything. If everybody else knows, why are we not being told?"

Mr O Muireagáin's mother, Theresa, said it was a very worrying time adding it was "not my son they're talking about".

She said he had told her he would not be ringing for a few days as he was going to a university graduation.

"When he did not ring for a couple of days I was not unduly worried. Till this morning we found out. I cannot believe this."

Pilib Mistéil, the principal of west Belfast Irish language school Bunscoil an tSleibhe Dhuibh, called for Mr O Muireagáin to be released, saying he was the chairman of its board of governors.

He said: "We had agreed to task him with linking our school with a primary school in Jenin.

"He was undertaking that task while in Jenin. His arrest is a disgrace and he should be set free immediately."

Ciaran O Pronntaigh of the Belfast Irish language paper, Lá, said the allegations made against the man were "rubbish".

"He is a well-known Irish language and Palestine Solidarity Committee activist in Belfast and was reporting from Jenin for Lá and Raidió na Gaeltachta. He was arrested on his way into Ramallah," he said.

Mr O Pronntaigh said the paper had contacted the Israeli Embassy in Dublin to demand his immediate release.

He added: "On July 8, we published a full-page account from Jenin in the West Bank by Seán O Muireagáin in our paper, a piece which was accompanied by his photograph, proof that he was in the occupied territories openly.

"We have contacted the Israeli Embassy in Dublin to demand Mr O Muireagáín's immediate release."

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said the man was in the West Bank on a cultural exchange project, had last heard from him on Saturday and was worried for his safety.

Kathleen Connell from that group said: "The thing that's giving us cause for great concern is the fact that his family have been trying to contact the British Embassy in Israel who are not answering the phone."

The Associated Press news agency said the man was arrested on Saturday afternoon and was being questioned by the Sin Bet security agency.

Story from BBC NEWS: