Archbishop Tutu appeals to Hamas to release dissident prisoner
CAIRO – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the world’s most respected moral icons, has made a dramatic offer to go personally to the Gaza Strip in order to secure the release of the long-detained dissident Mohamed Abu Muailek.
The Nobel Peace-prize winner was due to make a secret visit to Gaza on Friday April 8 2011 and to meet there with Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya. But the Archbishop postponed his visit because he and other world statesmen were seeking to end the outbreak of conflict between rival factions in the strife-torn African state of Ivory Coast.
Instead, the Archbishop sent a letter and a video personally to Mr Haniya. The Archbishop explained: “I am under pressure as Chairman of The Elders to try to go to the Ivory Coast. I hope that I will be able to see you again.”
The Archbishop added: “I wanted just to appeal to you to release the young man Mohamed Abu Muailek and I think you would have done so, just as you agreed to my previous appeal.”
His video and written statement ended: “God Bless You.”
In an accompanying letter, the Archbishop tells Mr Haniya that this move would “enhance your stature in the outside world”.
Describing Abu Muailek, 26, as “innocent”, Archbishop Tutu notes that he had first made an appeal for the release of the militant-turned-dissident in a letter sent in May 2010. A second letter was sent in January this year, but was also not made public until now.
Archbishop Tutu has now recorded a television appeal to Hamas, also calling for the release of Abu Muailek.
He had appealed to Mr Haniya for the release of the film-maker Paul Martin, who had been detained in 2010 while preparing to give evidence in Abu Muailek’s military trial. Martin was freed on March 11 2010 after 26 days in a Gaza prison-cell.
Hamas seized armed control of the territory in a bloody four-day overthrow of the rival Fatah security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007.
Martin’s film, showing the transformation of Abu Muailek from militant to dissident, has been broadcast eight times on BBC World News, and a film about the struggle to free Abu Muailek is in preparation.
Freeing Abu Muailek – who was detained nearly two years ago – would provide the same boost to Hamas’s image, the Archbishop said, as had been achieved when the Gaza rulers had released Martin.
“Your image as the head of a democracy would be enhanced by such a release,” Archbishop Tutu wrote in May 2010, referring to Abu Muailek.
All these communications had been kept confidential until now.
Archbishop Tutu won his Nobel Peace Prize for anti-apartheid activity in 1984 and is chairman of The Elders – a group of former statesmen and stateswomen including ex-President Jimmy Carter of the USA and Mary Robinson, ex-President of Ireland. Both the Archbishop and ex-President Carter have visited the Gaza Strip previously and have strongly condemned Israel’s pressure on its borders.
The assistant to Mr Haniya wrote back in June 2010 to the Archbishop, stating that Gaza’s rulers would consider the issues in due course.
But Hamas failed to communicate with the Archbishop since then.
FOR TEXTS OF LETTERS AND THE VIDEOS, SEE “TUTU” IN THE VIDEO SECTION.