Prisoner swap after Hamas deal with Fatah ‘must not leave out dissidents’

An international film-maker has warned that without international pressure fierce rivals Hamas and Fatah may refuse to free detained dissidents even as they exchange their ‘own’ prisoners as a result of a unity deal.

The release of prisoners is expected as a result of the signing of agreements late in May 2011 in Cairo between the two main Palestinian political factions, Fatah (wihich controls the West Bank)  and Hamas (which controls the Gaza Strip).  faction, but also to free prisoners who have been locked up because they oppose violence and confrontation.

“Hamas security should immediately release Mohamed Abu Muailek, who is the prime example in Gaza of a young man who has defied the violence and hatred that dominates the political scene there,” said Paul Martin, an international correspondent who had filmed Abu Muailek’s story.

He urged Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to join him in demanding that Hamas and Fatah free all dissidents held by either side. ”I’m worried they will make a deal to release their ‘own’ activists, yet ignore Mohamed because he disagrees with both movements in certain respects,” said Martin.  

Abu Muailek, now 26, has spent over two years in jail, accused but not convicted of spying, after he spoke out against Hamas for its rocket attacks on Israel.  Amnesty International has strongly criticised Hamas security services for their alleged torture of Abu Muailek during interrogations. 

In a film broadcast eight times on BBC WORLD NEWS, Abu Muailek had said  that these rocket attacks damaged Palestinian interests.

Abu Muailek  had been part of a militant group affiliated with Fatah that had fired rockets into Israeli civilian areas.  He had made no secret of his change of heart, and prior to his arrest had allowed himself to be filmed using the Internet to chat to an Israeli.  In the film “Rocket Man Under Fire” shown on the BBC, Abu Muailek said that this friendship had helped change his view of the need for violent conflict.

Film-maker Martin was detained when about to give evidence in Abu Muailek’s favour at a Hamas military court in February 2010.  He  spent 26 days in captivity before being released without charge.

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