A British activist has been deported from Israel because of his role in a university protest.
Gary Spedding, a Newcastle-based student, was detained at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. Israeli officials said he was thrown out of the country due to his involvement in a violent demonstration in Northern Ireland in 2011.
The 23-year-old, who has strong links to Belfast where he chaired the Palestine Solidarity Society at Queen’s University, had planned to meet Israeli politicians and charities during his trip.
He said he had “no qualms with legitimate security actions. However when they’re threatening a non-violent activist, it’s a disgrace”.
Supporters of Mr Spedding claimed he was a high-profile target for the Israelis and had been held because of his use of social media. He has around 1,600 Twitter followers, and regularly writes about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During his detainment he informed his Twitter followers, that security officials had taken his phone for “four hours” and “been right through it”.
He now plans to take legal action against Israel.
Yiftah Curiel, press attaché at the Israeli embassy in London, said Mr Spedding had been deported “due to his involvement in organising a violent protest at Queen’s in which an Israeli representative was attacked”.
Contrary to Mr Spedding’s claims, the embassy said a 10-year-ban had not been imposed, but that future visits would have to be co-ordinated through the London embassy.
During the March 2011 protest, Israeli law lecturer Solon Solomon had to be rescued by security officers when a seminar he was delivering at the university was disrupted by activists led by Mr Spedding.
At the time Mr Spedding said he personally did not condone violence.
Amnesty International said the activist’s claims that Ben Gurion security guards had taken details of his Palestinian contacts from his phone were a “very worrying invasion of his privacy”.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland director, said Mr Spedding’s contacts “may be subjected to some form of harassment by the Israeli authorities” and called on the British government to investigate the matter.