Describing  Mohamed Abu Muailek as  innocent, as a victim of the repression of freedom of speech, or as a dissident, internationally renowned  religious,  legal and journalistic figures have called for his immediate release.

The 26-year-old prisoner has been held captive in Gaza for more than two-and-a-half years.  He has still not been convicted of any crime – even in a so-called military court whose officers were appointed by Hamas after its fighters overthrew the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces during four days of blooding clashes in June 2007.  The PA and most of the world considers these forces, and the courts they control, to be acting illegally.

The strongly pro-Palestinian international lawyer John Dugard, who was the United Nations Human Rights Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian territories from 2001-2007, urged the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip to free Abu Muailek.  “I ask you to intervene to secure the release of Mohamed Abu Muailek. I know that he has expressed views contrary to the clear policies of the Governing Authority of Gaza. But in a democracy dissenting views must be tolerated,” wrote Professor Dugard, a longstanding member of the United Nations International Law Commission, in a letter to Hamas.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his defiance of apartheid and is currently leader of an international intervention group, The Elders, offered to go personally to Gaza or any other location if Hamas will free Abu Muailek.

The archbishop told Hamas’s Gaza ‘prime minister’ Ismail Haniya that the release of Abu Muailek “denoting his innocence, would “enhance your stature in the outside world”.

Longtime international correspondent Paul Martin, who has covered the conflict in Gaza for the BBC, Channel 4, Arte, The Times and Al Jazeera International,  was making a film about Abu Muailek’s change of heart – from militant rocket-firer to public critic of Hamas’s military tactics.   The film was shown eight times on BBC WORLD NEWS channel in 2010, but only after Martin himself had been detained by a Hamas internal security unit for 26 days.  He was held captive after going to a ‘military court’ in a failed attempt to give evidence in Abu Muaielk’s case.

A self-styled military court, comprising three uniformed Hamas ‘judges’ and a ‘prosecutor’ appointed by the Hamas ‘Internal Security ministry’, has continued to reject Abu Muailek’s requests for Martin to present his evidence.  It claims that Martin had been released due to international pressure and was still not acceptable to Hamas.

Martin said: “It is encouraging that Mohamed is still alive – largely, it seems, thanks to international publicity about his case, and the demands for his release coming from major figures and human rights groups. Yet it is sad that Hamas’s security agencies, and its military court, are behaving in a manner similar to those repressive regimes that have either fallen or are under pressure across North Africa and the Middle East.  Hamas should realise that no-one will take its  cause seriously if it continues to crush the right of young people in Gaza to speak their minds. Abu Muailek is being pilloried for changing his views.  It is time Hamas changed also, in the direction of freedom of speech and the rule of law.”

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