Gaza Dissident Is Free, but Fearful, says WALL STREET JOURNAL

 

  • The Wall Street Journal
  • MIDDLE EAST NEWS
  • DECEMBER 2, 2011

 

Mohamed Abumuailek, a disillusioned Gaza militant, was
jailed by Hamas security forces in April 2009 on spy charges after
going on camera to denounce rocket fire on Israeli cities and talking
about an online friend from Tel Aviv.

After a two-year trial, more than a dozen appearances in a Hamas
military court and an international campaign on his behalf, Mr.
Abumuailek was brought before a judge in early October for a
verdict—and walked free.

Human-rights activists say it was the first case of an accused
collaborator being acquitted since Hamas took control of the coastal
strip in 2007.

A defendant in an unrelated case who faced the judge alongside Mr.
Abumuailek, also on security-related charges, was sentenced to death.

The 26-year-old computer network expert says he now lives in fear
that he could be the target of violence by vigilantes. He shuns
direct contact via telephone or email for fear of being accused of
collaboration, and says he delayed telling the outside world about
his acquittal to avoid attention.

“I’m living some sort of ordinary life with some caution,
trying to convince myself that nothing bad will happen,” Mr.
Abumuailek wrote in an email, in response to questions relayed
through his brother, Yasser. “But there could be people within
Hamas who could commit any crime with no hesitation. One of these
killers may be just a phone call away.”

The dissident said he has been unable to find a job because many
Gazans are afraid to employ someone rumored to be an Israeli spy. His
only income is generated from computer research for a friend
completing a psychology doctorate.

Hamas is holding some 150 Gazans in its jails on charges of
collaborating with Israel. It has executed six in the past two years,
said Bahjat Hilu, a Gaza-based spokesman for the Palestinian
human-rights monitor, the Independent Commission on Human Rights.

“No one has been released so far,” Mr. Hilu said.

Mr. Abumuailek and his brother credit his release with an
international campaign to pressure Hamas from such quarters as Nobel
Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Amnesty
International, as well as attention from a British Broadcasting Corp.
documentary. The Wall Street Journal also reported on the case.

“They are trying to keep a good image locally and
internationally. Releasing Mohammed is part of this,” said his
brother, Yasser Abumuailek, who resides in Germany.

A spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry said he believed the
decision was made by the court and not the Hamas leadership.

The campaign for Mr. Abumuailek’s release was spearheaded by
Paul Martin, the freelance journalist who documented, in the BBC film
and the WSJ article, Mr. Abumuailek’s transformation – from a
militant who helped rocket squads locate targets in Israel using
Google Earth to a dissident who knowingly put himself in the cross
hairs of Hamas to call into question their targeting of Israeli
civilians.

Mr. Martin was jailed himself for 26 days in Gaza by Hamas after
returning in 2010 to testify on behalf of the young dissident.

“I hope it’s the first sign of appreciation that [Hamas] needs
to align itself with a less-repressive approach to its citizens,”
Mr. Martin said of Mr. Abumuailek’s release. “Gaza also needs to
catch up to the Arab Spring, which so far seems to largely have
passed it by.”

Mr. Abumuailek said he hopes in the future to travel abroad to
seek medical treatment and to thank his supporters in person. And
despite the danger, he said he remains resolved to voice dissent and
promote the cause of other dissidents as well. “My activism won’t
stop,” he wrote. “My plans now are dedicated only to being a
patriotic dissident, who wants a better life for his people and for
people all around the globe.”

Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

[NOTE: Grammatical errors corrected.]

 

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