CAMPAIGNERS’ MEDIA SUCCESS
FILM-MAKER’S CAMPAIGN SUCCEEDS AS HAMAS ADMITS: GAZA DISSIDENT ‘NOT GUILTY’.
ABU MUAILEK SET FREE, BUT SAFETY CONCERNS REMAIN
GAZA CITY — A British film-maker and journalist’s campaign to save dissident former Gaza militant Mohamed Abu Muailek from execution has succeeded. Abu Muailek, 26, was freed by Hamas on October 9 2011 after being declared innocent of all charges against him. He says he feels stronger and more determined than ever before.
Charges alleged against Abu Muailek had included espionage on behalf of the “enemy”, for which there is a mandatory death penalty. He had been held in a prison cell for two and a half years.
Paul Martin wrote graphically in the Wall Street Journal’s Life & Culture section and in Guardian Media about Abu Muailek’s story, and about his own detention for 26 days after seeking to give evidence in Abu Muailek’s military trial.
Abu Muailek is now recovering from his ordeal at an undisclosed location inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas Security has refused to return the passport, documents and computer it seized from him and held throughout his two and a half years in captivity.
In a statement emailed to those who campaigned for him, Abu Muailek said: “I’m out stronger in belief and better in mind. And the hit that doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
He had been a member of a militant armed group that fired rockets into Israel, but later rejected its violent approach and sought to publicise his changed views.
The news of his release was first revealed on the website dissidentunderfire.com, which had campaigned for Abu Muailek’s freedom and declared him a ‘Dissident of Conscience’. Campaigners for his freedom said the release of Abu Muailek was the result of extensive international pressure from major world icons including Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
His brother Yasser Abu Muailek, who lives in Germany, said the family in Gaza continues to fear that the not-guilty verdict will “definitely not sit well” with some militants there.
“I believe Mohammed’s safety and well-being cannot be guaranteed as long as he’s inside the Gaza Strip,” said Yasser Abu Muailek. “We need to ensure he gets safe passage out of Gaza.”
In filmed comments on a BBC television programme aired eight times in 2010, Yasser Abu Muailek revealed that death threats against his brother were made during an interrogation. He said his brother had been warned that, even if he were ever set free, he would still be killed once he was outside prison.
Mohamed Abu Muailek was released three days after a military court found him not guilty of any crime, but remains unable to from leave the Gaza Strip.
Abu Muailek was detained in April 2009, and for the next two months was held incommunicado in a secret detention centre run by Hamas Internal Security, where he was allegedly tortured. He then spent more than two years in a national prison, making periodic visits to a military tribunal.
The military judges and the military prosecution are employed by the same Hamas grouping in the Gaza Strip.
The security services of the Palestinian Authority (PA) were forcibly overthrown by Hamas gunmen in four days of fighting in June 2007. The Palestinian Authority, run by PA president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, declared the security takeover illegal but is unable to exert any control inside the Gaza Strip.
Amnesty International, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Professor John Dugard, British Member of Parliament Lord David Steel and others had made appeals to Hamas for Abu Muailek’s release or had expressed deep concern at his treatment.
In urging his release, Archbishop Tutu and Professor Dugard had argued that he was not a spy, just a dissident whose change of heart from rocket-firing militant to peace advocate led to his arrest.
Prior to Abu Muailek’s detention in April 2009, Martin was making a documentary about him. In February 2010 Martin, whose independent production company World News & Features is based in London, volunteered to give evidence at Abu Muailek’s military trial. But when he reached the military tribunal was himself seized and imprisoned.