MY FIGHT TO SAVE MAN OF PEACE (used in HAMPSTEAD & HIGHGATE EXPRESS 2010)
By Paul Martin
The Hamas intelligence officer pulled out a pair of handcuffs. “You are not a witness, you are an accused,” he yelled, pointing at me. “Lock him up.”
I was shoved into a darkened cell – the beginning of twenty six days within a Gaza Gulag. Held in solitary confinement (except for much-valued trips to the neighbouring cell’s toilet), I woke up one early morning to find that my guards had removed all reading and writing material, and even my toothbrush and comb.
I had come to Gaza in February 2010 intending to give evidence in favour of Mohamed Abu Muailek, a Palestinian accused of collaborating with Israel and now awaiting a likely death sentence. He had rejected his militant group and was talking about why he now felt firing rockets into civilian areas was wrong and counter-productive. Filming his story, I too became the victim of the security services.
They arrested me at the military courthouse. Trying to extract a confession my interrogators used psychological pressure, and even threatened to kidnap my family or lure them over to Gaza by feigning, or creating, a serious injury or illness for me.
I had previously filmed Mohamed as part of a rocket-firing brigade, using Google Earth to find targets inside Israel. I was convinced that Mohamed was not a spy: which spy would agree to be filmed by a Western film-maker talking about why he now strongly opposed a key plank of the local regime’s platform: firing rockets into Israel?
In early 2009, as we began filming him in his new role as a man of peace, he said he knew and accepted the risks.
One reason Mohamed had changed his mind was an email friendship he established with a fellow-computer-geek, who it emerged lived in Tel Aviv. We filmed them chatting by internet.
The Hamas authorities had decided this computer friend must be a Mossad spymaster.
He ended up being arrested, disappearing for sixty days, and then being put on trial. His brother, who lives in Germany, says Mohamed was tortured, and, when his sister finally saw him during a prison visit some months later, he was a “broken shell of a man”.
The allegations against me amounted to this: filming Mohamed showed I was his supposed MI6 or Mossad spymaster.
The prison environment was volatile. A prison guard and two prisoners from Al Qaeda at different stages drew their index fingers across their throats threatening to kill me. Inbetween-times, we had some interesting discussions about Islam.
But on Day 23 of my captivity the Hamas authorities sent a top official to see me. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and visiting British MPs, had urged my release.
I was driven out of Gaza three days later with gunmen on either side. Now it remains to be seen whether Mohamed will be convicted, and if so, whether he will face the firing squad.
COPYRIGHT WORLD NEWS & FEATURES 2010.