Tutu calls for Palestinian's release

August 29, 2010 01:33

Archbishop protests conviction of separation barrier activist.

1 minute read.

A Palestinian holds a green Islamic flag as he run

niilin protester 190. (photo credit: AP)

Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, chairman of a group known as The Elders, expressed concern over the weekend about Tuesday’s conviction of Palestinian activist Abdallah Abu Rahma by an Israeli military court.

Abu Rahma was convicted of incitement to attack IDF soldiers at protests against the West Bank security barrier in Bil’in, near Modi’in Illit.

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“I am deeply concerned about the conviction earlier this week of Abdallah Abu Rahma,” Tutu said in a statement.

“When I met him with my fellow Elders last year, we were very impressed by his commitment to nonviolence and the wise leadership he showed.

“He and his fellow activists have had some success in challenging the wall that divides the people of Bil’in from their land. Israel’s attempt to crack down on this effective resistance movement by criminalizing peaceful protest is unacceptable and unjust,” the retired Anglican cleric continued.

In the statement, Tutu urged Israeli authorities to release Abu Rahma “immediately and unconditionally, and to overturn his conviction.”

On Wednesday, the European Union’s top diplomat criticized Israel over Abu Rahma’s conviction, calling the activist a “human rights defender.”

In a strongly-worded statement, Catherine Ashton said she was “deeply concerned” by the guilty verdict against Abu Rahma.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in response that Ashton “should respect the ruling of the Israeli justice system, and refrain from casting aspersions on a legal system that is lauded worldwide by its peers.”

“In Israel, where even those who openly support Hamas and Hizbullah enjoy freedom of speech, such accusations sound particularly hollow.

Moreover, interfering with a transparent legal procedure of a democratic country is not just highly improper, but is hardly consistent with promoting European values,” he added.

Israel started taking a harder line against demonstrations in the West Bank late last year, arresting activists and keeping protesters from reaching the barrier. Abu Rahma, a 39-year-old schoolteacher, is among the most prominent of those detained in a string of arrests.

Jailed since December, he was convicted on Tuesday of inciting protesters to attack Israeli troops and for participating in protests without a legal permit. The case has drawn international attention, and foreign observers and reporters attended the hearing.

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