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Israel arrests Al Jazeera reporter pallbearer

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel has arrested one of the pallbearers of slain Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, police said yesterday, but rejected his lawyer’s claim that the detention was linked to his role at the funeral.

In a raid that has sparked international outrage, baton-wielding Israeli police beat several pallbearers as they carried the journalist’s coffin out of a hospital in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Abu Akleh was shot dead during an Israeli army raid in the West Bank last week.

Palestinians and the TV network said Israeli troops killed her, while Israel said she may have been killed by Palestinian gunfire or a stray shot from an Israeli sniper.

A lawyer for pallbearer Amro Abu Khudeir told AFP that his client had been arrested and questioned over his role at the funeral.

According to the lawyer, Khaldoun Najm, Israel also claimed to have “a secret file on (Khudeir’s) membership of a terrorist organisation”.

Amro Abu Khudeir covers his head protectively as he carries the casket of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh out of a hospital, before being transported to a church. PHOTO: AFP

“I think they will arrest more young men who participated in the funeral,” Najm said. “For them, the subject of the funeral and the coffin was scandalous.”

Police dismissed any link between the funeral and Khudeir’s arrest.

“We are witnessing an attempt to produce a conspiracy that is fundamentally incorrect,” a statement said.

“The suspect was arrested as part of an ongoing investigation which contrary to allegations, had nothing to do with his participation in the funeral procession.”

Police justifications for the raid at St Joseph’s hospital have varied.

They have cited the need to stamp out “nationalistic” chants and also said that “rioters” among the mourners hurled projectiles at officers.

Israeli forces frequently crack down on displays of Palestinian identity, including the national flag, one of which was draped over Abu Akleh’s coffin.

Police have vowed to investigate the controversial incident.