Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

47. New assaults on the Freedom Theatre

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This message just arrived from the Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp, occupied Palestine:

When the Israeli army attacked the Freedom Theatre on July 27th [MR: see several previous blog posts], they took away two of our members, Adnan Naghnaghiye and Bilal Saadi.

After a month in prison without charges, an illegal practice under international and Israeli law, both men were finally released on August 22nd.  Theatre school student Rami Hwayel, also seized by the military at a checkpoint, is expected to be released in a few days.

However, also on August 22nd, the army seized Freedom Theatre security guard Mohammed Eisht Naghnaghiye, brother of Adnan.  Once again heavily armed soldiers came in the night.  Furniture was thrown to the floor and broken, and dog excrement left on the floor. The army also took another three residents of the camp that same night.

Yesterday the army extended Mohammed Eisht Naghnaghiye’s illegal arrest by 15 days.

In addition, another student at the theatre school, Momeen Syatat, has been informed by the army that he is to hand himself in for interrogation on September 1st.  [MR: This procedure is standard for the occupying army, and gives the false impression to Israelis and foreigners that compliance is voluntary.]

Further, two technicians at The Freedom Theatre, Mohammed Saadi, 21 years old and Ahmad Matahen, 20 years old, have also been told to hand themselves in at the Salem military base outside of Jenin. [MR: It is also standard practice for the occuping army to arrest young people arbitrarity, then to offer them a way out of brutal interrogation by collaborating, ie spying, on their fellow citizens.  Such forced collaborations often include making false accusations as required by the military handlers.]

The outcome of the previous interrogations confirms what we at the theatre have claimed from the start – these people are not suspects and could have been questioned without being arrested at all, not to mention the inhumane treatment they suffered.  They all cooperated in giving any information they had, to assist in finding the person(s) who murdered our beloved co-founder Juliano Mer-Khamis.  [MR: The Israeli army claims to be conducting a criminal investigation into the April 2011 murder, but given that Jenin is Palestinian territory, Israel actually has no legal jurisdiction there.  On the contrary, harassment of a vital and widely respected cultural institution that challenges power is a much more likely cause of the army interventions.  The occupier would like nothing better than to see the Freedom Theatre close.]

All of us at the theatre want more than anything that the murderer of Juliano Mer-Khamis be brought to justice, and therefore Mohammed and Ahmad have decided to obey the order and contribute any information that might help.  However this is on condition that they are treated in accordance with rule of law.  To walk into the arms of the Israeli security service quite often means disappearing from the surface of the earth, never knowing when you will come back and knowing that you most certainly face harsh treatment.

We demand that Mohammed, Ahmad, Momeen and Eisht be treated no worse and no better than any Israeli citizen brought in to participate in a civil criminal investigation.  Their legal rights, as stipulated by international law, must be honoured.

Mohammed and Ahmad will go voluntarily to the Salem military base only on condition that their lawyer is allowed to accompany them and to see them immediately before and after interrogation, and that they will not be arrested and not be denied access to their lawyer as has been done in the previous cases.  This demand has been relayed to the Israeli security and we are awaiting their answer.

In the meantime, these continuing cruel and unnecessary arrests have forced the Freedom Theatre to hire a lawyer to protect the rights of its members.  Legal fees already approach 5000 EUR [MR: At current rates that’s about $7000 Cdn, or 4400 British pounds].

We fear that costs may increase further as the cycle of Israeli arrests does not seem to end.

The Freedom Theatre is unable to allocate this money from our project funding without jeopardizing our progams, and the families of the innocent arrestees are also unable to cover the fees.  We therefore ask our friends and supporters around the world to contribute to the legal costs.

These cases will also enable us to expose the discriminatory legal system applied to the Palestinians.

You may make your donation here.  Please mark your donation with “Legal”.

For the Freedom Theatre

Jacob Gough, acting general manager

[MR:  And please give this message wings, by passing it on to others.]

Author: Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.

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