Israel frees two Jordanians held without charge

Hiba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri were released from Israeli prison and returned to Jordan after months of detention.

    Hiba al-Labadi gestures upon her release by Israel at the King Hussein Bridge crossing [Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]
    Hiba al-Labadi gestures upon her release by Israel at the King Hussein Bridge crossing [Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

    Israeli authorities have released two Jordanian citizens who had been detained for two months and returned them to Jordan.

    Hiba al-Labadi, 24, and Abdul Rahman Miri, 29, crossed the King Hussein Bridge into Jordan on Wednesday where they were received by family members.

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    "I'm very happy to be out," Labadi told reporters at the crossing. "Thank you to his majesty King Abdullah, the foreign ministry and the Jordanian people who supported and stood by me."

    The detention of the two Jordanian nationals, who are both of Palestinian descent, led Amman to recall its ambassador and threatened to cause a diplomatic crisis between the two neighbours.

    Israel arrested Labadi on August 20 and Miri on September 2 as they entered the occupied West Bank from Jordan through an Israeli-controlled crossing. They were held in administrative detention, which allows for open-ended detentions without filing charges.

    "I didn't know the charges, it was a hard feeling because I didn't know the reason why I was there," Labadi said at the border crossing. "They were hitting the table. They told me you are at the intelligence office now. I wasn't aware of what was going on."

    Labadi was subjected to 30 days of interrogation in the Petah Tikva interrogation centre, the UN said last week after a team of experts visited her in detention.

    During her interrogation, which sometimes extended to 20 hours a day, she was tied to a chair and placed in a painful position, the UN said.

    She was also hospitalised last week due to her deteriorating condition after more than a month on hunger strike in protest against her detention.

    She ended the hunger strike following the announcements about her release. Israel's Shin Bet security service has said Labadi was detained "because of suspicion of her involvement in serious security violations" but gave no further details.

    She said Israeli authorities were investigating her over a visit made to Lebanon, and the reason for her visit to the occupied West Bank, which she says was to attend a wedding party.

    Miri, 29, has been battling cancer since 2010, and he requires frequent medical checkups.

    Jordanian citizens Abdul Rahman Miri gestures upon his release by Israel, at the King Hussein Bridge crossing near Amman
    Abdul Rahman Miri raises his fingers in a victory sign upon his release by Israel following two months of detention without charge [Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

    Strained relations

    Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said on Monday that a deal had been worked out between Jordan and Israel. As part of the arrangement, Israel says Jordan will return its ambassador to Israel.

    But the arrests had further strained the tense ties between the two neighbours, who signed a peace treaty 25 years ago. Despite close security cooperation, relations between Israel and Jordan have frayed as a result of the prolonged deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as well as Israeli policies in occupied East Jerusalem, where Jordan has custodial rights over Muslim holy sites.

    Last year, Jordan chose not to renew a clause of the peace treaty that granted Israel use of two enclaves inside Jordanian territory.

    Efforts by Israel to negotiate an extension of the lease from Jordan have so far not succeeded, and Jordan is to regain full control of the areas next week.

    The two countries quietly marked the anniversary of their landmark peace deal. Signed on October 26, 1994, it was only the second peace deal between Israel and an Arab country, following Egypt.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies