GAZA CITY October 9 2011 — A dissident former Gaza militant Mohamed Abu Muailek, 26, has been freed by Hamas after being declared innocent of all charges against him.

But in a  video conversation conducted through Skype from Gaza, Abu Muailek indicated his life remains in danger.  He said prisoners held alongside him had given details of others accused of collaboration who had been released only to be “executed” later by militants.

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.

Abu Muailek is now recovering from his ordeal at an undisclosed location inside the Gaza Strip. 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, which has 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 is worried that this verdict will “definitely not sit well” with some members of Al Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas, or with its Internal Security unit.

“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 last year on a BBC television programme, 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. The military prosecutor has told Abu Muailek’s lawyers that he will not appeal the verdict.  So far Abu Muailek is barred from leaving 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 grouping in the Gaza Strip – Hamas’s Internal Security, a division of the Hamas Ministry of Interior and Security.

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, has 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, international film-maker Paul Martin was making a documentary about him. In February 2010 Martin volunteered to give evidence at Abu Muailek’s military trial — but when he reached the military tribunal was himself seized and held captive.  Martin was held in isolation and threatened with death before eventually being freed after 26 days.

“I am thrilled and delighted that through relentless pressure on Hamas from world icons like Archbishop Tutu, and due to the media and human rights interest in the case, a remarkable and unique result has been achieved,” Martin said today.

“According to a Human Rights Watch report, most alleged spies or agents are dispensed with long before they can even get to a tribunal. I also want to pay tribute to BBC WORLD NEWS for its decision to air the film “Rocket Man Under Fire” four times, and to repeat it four more times over the Christmas period in 2010.

“That film’s revelations, and coverage on BBC’s ‘HardTalk’ and on CNN’s ‘International Correspondent’ programmes, as well as major pieces published in the Guardian and most recently in the Wall Street Journal, all must have helped save Mohamed from execution and must have helped lead to this sensational result.”

Martin added: “We must not forget that for well over two years a young man’s liberty has been removed, his life has been in serious jeopardy, and he has faced enormous pressures and torture – a high price to pay for taking a peaceful path that the rulers of his territory spurn.  He is a true dissident, and a true prisoner of conscience. This is a triumph for the right of a citizen to speak out against violence if he so chooses.”

He continued: “Freeing Mohamed was the primary issue here.  But I also feel it proves that journalists have a vital role in exposing repression of dissidents who have been willing to talk to the media.

“I also repeat what I said to fellow-journalists inside the Gaza Strip as I was being released from 26 days of illegal captivity: ‘This is a great victory for the right of journalists to report from difficult areas and on difficult topics without the threat of detention, arrest, or intimidation.’

“What continues to worry me, though, is the number of journalists detained, locked up, made to disappear, or tortured for their courageous reporting worldwide.  It is even worse for so many ordinary dissidents who were not lucky enough to have their cases followed, known about or reported internationally,” Martin said.

“We are now determined to follow this success by building new strong campaigns for other Dissidents of Conscience – people worldwide who, while non-violently resisting oppression, have been victimised by a regime or armed group for speaking out to the media.”

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