Gary Spedding deported from Israel and back in UK

Gary Spedding was detained by immigration officials at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport

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A member of the Alliance Party's youth wing has returned to the UK after being deported from Israel.

Gary Spedding was held by immigration officials on Thursday after he arrived at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.

Mr Spedding, 23, had travelled to Israel to meet Israeli politicians and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The Israeli embassy in London said Mr Spedding was denied entry into Israel because he "organised a violent protest" in Belfast.

'Perplexing'

Mr Spedding, 23, was put on a flight bound for the UK on Friday evening after being detained overnight.

He told BBC News the authorities deported him and issued him with a 10-year ban from entering the country because of his campaigning on Twitter.

"I'm in contact with numerous Israeli activists. I'm very engaged with the Israeli and Palestinian peace movement," he said.

"This seems to be the first time that the security and emigration at Ben Gurion airport have said that the reason they are giving is specific to my social media activities."

Mr Spedding is originally from England but had spent the last number of years studying in Northern Ireland.

He was a member of the Palestine Solidarity Society at Queen's University, Belfast.

Confidential documents
Gary Spedding Mr Spedding said the explanation given for his deportation was "completely perplexing".

He has claimed that during his detention, the Israeli authorities examined his mobile phone and got access to personal contacts with his "Palestinian and Israeli friends" and "fellow activists".

Mr Spedding also said the Israeli authorities viewed confidential Alliance Party submissions to the recent Haass talks, aimed at resolving outstanding issues in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster on Saturday, Mr Spedding said that he found the explanation given for his deportation "completely perplexing".

"I'm an international activist, I'm not some huge, famous person or anything like that, so I can't go into a country and organise protests.

"It's not my country, it's not my place to go into a different country and organise protests. The protest is already happening," he said.

Mr Spedding told the BBC that he now intends to take legal action.

'Threat to stability'

Alliance MP Naomi Long said Mr Spedding had been travelling in a personal capacity.

"He was detained on the basis that his campaigning for Palestinian rights was viewed by the authorities in Israel to be a threat to stability in that he could have arranged campaigns or protests while he was in the country," she said.

"I think that was largely based on work that he had done, particularly campaigns led on social media.

"However, I was concerned to learn he had been detained and I was understandably worried for his welfare.

"I contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on his behalf as soon as I learned of his circumstances and ensured he received consular assistance.

"I am glad he is safe and well," Ms Long added.

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said: "Mr Spedding's entry into Israel was denied due to his involvement in organising a violent protest in Queens University, Belfast, in which an Israeli representative was attacked, and others were forced to take shelter to prevent being hurt.

"No country has an obligation to allow foreigners who have been involved in violent activities targeting its nationals to enter its territory."

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