UK-Israel: Tip off from UK intelligence services leads to arrest and release of wrong man
On Saturday 14 July John Morgan from Northern Ireland was arrested by the Israeli Shin Bet security agency following what now appears to be a tip-off from UK intelligence services that he was a terrorist suspect - however, it is now a case of mistaken identity as he is not the "John Morgan" suspected by UK intelligence.
John Morgan was released on Wednesday 16 July by the Israeli authorities.
1. Coverage in Guardian, 16.7.03
2. Statement the Ireland Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, 14.7.03
UK-Israeli clash on Belfast detainee
Rosie Cowan and Richard Norton-Taylor
Wednesday July 16, 2003
British and Israeli intelligence services appeared to be at odds yesterday over the arrest of a west Belfast man suspected of training Palestinian militants. Israeli sources suggested it was a case of mistaken identity, but Whitehall sources told the Guardian there was no mistake over the information they supplied.
John Morgan was seized by the Shin Bet security agency at a checkpoint near Ramallah on Saturday and last night was still being held amid tight security in Tel Aviv.
However, Israeli radio said intelligence sources were now blaming the British for leading them to the wrong man and said there would have been no arrest without an M15 tip-off.
It seems Mr Morgan, also known by his Irish name Sean O Muireagain, may have been mistaken for a south Armagh man also called John Morgan and in his early 40s, known to British and Irish police.
Nevertheless, Israeli officials are saying nothing and British consular staff have been denied access to Mr Morgan, who can be detained for several weeks without charge.
Family and friends insist he is simply an Irish language expert who went to the Occupied Territories to set up a schools exchange programme. They have called for his immediate release.
Mr Morgan has a British passport and has filed several articles to two west Belfast papers since he arrived in Israel three weeks ago.
"We're out of our minds with worry," said his mother, Theresa Morgan. "The British consul has tried to get to see him... but has not been allowed in.
"I just wish they would hold their hands up and admit they've got the wrong man. The longer they hold on to him the worse it looks for them. His father has just had major heart surgery and this is not doing him one bit of good. I'm pleading with Tony Blair to ask Ariel Sharon to get our son freed."
Kathleen Connell, a member of the Belfast-based Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which held a picket in west Belfast last night calling for Mr Morgan's release, said: "There is a blame game around this issue between the Israeli and British intelligence services, which is no comfort to this man's family."
She added: "So far, the Israeli authorities have denied the British consul access, which contravenes the Geneva convention. If they really believed this man was a terrorist, I'm mystified as to why they would let him into the country unchallenged, and then arrest him three weeks later at a checkpoint."
Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein president, and Sean Farren, of the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, urged the Irish government to put pressure on Israel for Mr Morgan's release.
For immediate release: 14/07/03
IPSC SLAM REPORTS OF PEACE ACTIVIST BEING INVOLVED IN BOMB MAKING PLOT
The Ireland Palestinian Solidarity Campaign has today rubbished reports that the peace activist, John Morgan, who was arrested by the Israeli security force, Shin Bet on Saturday is a Real IRA bomb maker. Mr Morgan, who is well known in Belfast under his Irish name Sean O'Muireagain, traveled to Palestine three weeks ago to establish links with Palestinian schools.
Speaking today spokesperson for the IPSC Cathleen O'Connell said:
"Contrary to what has been appearing in the media, John Morgan who is known to friends and family as Sean O'Muireagain is not a Real IRA bomb maker. In fact the information released by the Israeli Authorities is grossly inaccurate.
"Mr Morgan has indeed traveled out to Palestine with a British passport under the name of John Morgan. However, he is a well-known Irish language and cultural activist originally from, and still based in Belfast. His high profile in Belfast discredits the information released to the media by the Israeli Authorities that he is from South Armagh and had apparently gone to ground well before his visit to Palestine.
"Mr Morgan is visiting Palestine as a peace activist. Amongst his roles is to establish links with local schools in order to further a school-twinning programme initiated by the IPSC in Belfast this year. He has also been staying with the family of a group of Palestinian teenagers who were guests at last years West Belfast Festival.
"I am calling on the Israeli Authorities to release John immediately. This is a blatant attempt to discredit and malign any sort of solidarity work with Palestine that is essentially about making a positive change and aiding in the conflict resolution process."
Note to editor: For further information contact David Kennedy on 07813010049
John Morgan has never lived in South Armagh or Newry. He is not connected to Irish politics. He is an educationalist who works for the British Government funded Council for Irish Medium Education (which is funded through the Department of Education in the North of Ireland). He is well known also as an Irish language broadcaster and corresponedent for the Irish newspaper 'Lá' and the radio station, Radio na Gaeltachta. He is frequently in the local press in Belfast. His main reason for visiting Palestine was to develop a project organised by the IPSC twinning local schools there with local schools in Ireland. Four such schools have already been twinned with Palestinian schools, three Secondary and one Primary school. He was invovled in meeting teachers and head teachers in Palestine to develop a programme of work for this project. He was also in Palestine to organise the children's holiday cultural exchange scheme. Last year the IPSC brought a number of children to Ireland from Palestine for a holiday and this work was an extension of this. While in Palestine he also did work for 'La'.
Statewatch News online | Join Statewatch news e-mail list | Statewatch websites