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PRESS RELEASE – Thursday, 23 August 2018

A delegation of the support committee for Mustapha Awad, a Belgian artist of Palestinian origin, imprisoned since July 19 by Israel, was received this Wednesday, August 22 at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The delegation was composed of An Muylaert, a doctor who has worked with Mustapha since his arrival as a young refugee in Belgium; Alexis Deswaef, Honorary President of the League of Human Rights; Mohammed Okal, young dancer in the Raj’een debkeh (traditional dance) group that Mustapha founded; Hamdan Al Damiri, representing the Palestinian community in Belgium; Dominique Surleau, President of PAC (Présence et Action Culturelles) and Myriam De Ly (Plate-forme Charleroi-Palestine).

The members of the delegation shared their personal connections with Mustapha and their deep concern about his fate. The delegates noted that they felt that the four officials of the SPF Foreign Affairs administration (three representatives of the Consular Branch and one person specifically in charge of the Middle East) listened to their concerns and welcomed them. The delegation were also informed of the steps that the Department had taken after they became aware that Mustapha was arrested by Israeli authorities. The delegates requested that the Belgian Consul arrange a new visit with Mustapha.

The delegation presented the 1,364 signatures to the « Free Mustapha » petition, launched on Friday, August 18. Over four days, including holidays and the weekend, the Free Mustapha Committee was able to gather 1,263 individual signatures and 101 organizational signatures, including 37 Belgian organizations. The representatives of the Ministry said that they would share the news of the delegation’s visit and the growing wind of solidarity that is blowing in Belgium with the Belgian consul in Jerusalem, so that Mustapha feels the support that exists.

Alexis Deswaef and other members of the delegation expressed their deep concern about the human rights violations regularly committed during the interrogation of prisoners in Israel (inhuman treatment, torture, etc.) Ministry officials seemed to share these fears. An Muylaert raised the point that Mustapha should have, at the very least, the opportunity to call his family.

We are now awaiting the next diplomatic steps that will be taken : the consul’s next visit with Mustapha in prison, the new hearing before an Israeli court in early September and access to the case file by Mustapha’s lawyer.

Waiting, however, does not mean inactivity. We know that Mustapha and the Raj’een group are known throughout the country. We will continue our campaign of information and mobilization for his release until he is finally back among us. We invite you to sign the petition and to follow our Facebook page :

The Free Mustapha Committee

Palestinian dancer from Belgium jailed by Israel

Mustapha Awad (via Facebook)

There is growing concern in Belgium for a Palestinian refugee and dancer who was detained by Israeli authorities as he tried to enter the occupied West Bank from Jordan a month ago.

Mustapha Awad, who was born in Ein al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, has been granted refugee status and citizenship in Belgium.

For two weeks after his arrest, Awad was not allowed to see a lawyer, according to prisoners solidarity group Samidoun. He was only allowed to see someone from the Belgian consulate on 8 August, after 20 days of interrogation.

According to Samidoun, Awad appeared in court on 16 August, and was then returned to an Israeli interrogation center.

“My client was arrested at a frontier post for belonging to a terrorist organization, something he firmly denies,” Awad’s Belgian lawyer told media last Friday.

The 36-year-old Awad is the co-founder of Raj’een, a Palestinian folk dance group.

“It was his first time going to Palestine to visit the land of his parents. He has never lived there,” the lawyer added.

Belgian state broadcaster RTBF cited Israeli media reports claiming that Awad is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Israel considers that political faction, along with virtually all other Palestinian political parties to be a “terrorist” organization.

According to RTBF, Awad is due to appear again before an Israeli judge on 3 September.

The Belgian foreign ministry has confirmed Awad’s arrest and said it is “following the situation,” but has given no further details.

Awad’s case is reminiscent of Salah Hamouri, a Palestinian-French human rights defender who has been in Israeli detention for a year without charge or trial.

The French government has done little to secure Hamouri’s freedom.

Activists in Belgium are campaigning for Awad’s release.

A delegation from the Committee to Free Mustapha Awad visited the foreign ministry in Brussels on Wednesday:

They have also launched a Facebook page and a petition that calls on the Belgian government to “assume its responsibilities to protect its citizens against arbitrary arrest and against any form of torture or inhuman treatment.”

Waed Tamimi sentenced

An Israeli military court sentenced Waed Tamimi to 14 months in prison for throwing stones at an Israeli Border Police officer last year and a similar incident a year earlier.

Waed, 21, is the brother of Ahed Tamimi, the teenager recently released after eight months in prison for pushing and shoving an Israeli soldier on the family’s property in the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

The siblings’ mother, Nariman, also spent eight months in prison for filming the incident involving Ahed.

As in Ahed’s case, Waed’s sentence was the result of a plea bargain in which he admitted to charges leveled by Israeli occupation forces.

Israel’s military court denies Palestinians basic guarantees of a fair trial and due process and has a conviction rate of nearly 100 percent.

“The court found that stones thrown by Waed Tamimi and others struck a border policeman, who was wearing a helmet, in the head and arm, injuring his arm,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

While Palestinians are regularly accused by Israeli military authorities of responding to incursions by occupation forces with stone throwing, Israeli soldiers who injure, maim and kill Palestinians enjoy near-total impunity.

Waed will get credit for time spent in prison since he was seized from his home in an early morning raid by occupation forces in May.

After Israeli soldiers beat and bruised Waed in the course of his arrest, he was taken to a hospital, his father Bassem wrote in a Facebook post at the time.

Arresting journalists

Ali Dar Ali in Israeli military court on 20 August 

Oren Ziv ActiveStills

Also in the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces on 15 August arrested Ali Dar Ali, a reporter with the Palestinian Authority’s Palestine TV.

Israeli forces arrested Dar Ali in a dawn raid on his home in the occupied West Bank village of Burham and confiscated his cell phone and computer.

A spokesperson for the Israeli army told The Times of Israel that Dar Ali was arrested for “incitement” because he filmed and livestreamed Israeli forces as they prepared to demolish a house in the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah.

“Israel is using every legal measure at its disposal, including accusations of incitement, to thwart critical reporting of its policies and activities in the West Bank and keep journalists like Ali Dar Ali in jail,” Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists stated.

“We call on the Israeli authorities to release Ali Dar Ali immediately and let him work freely.”

The military court at Ofer prison where Dar Ali is being held has extended his detention multiple times. It now stands until 4 September.

In June, Israel’s parliament started considering a bill that would punish filming or recording Israeli soldiers and publishing the content with up to 10 years in prison.

Reporters Without Borders has urged rejection of the bill, describing it as part of Israel’s tightening crackdown on journalists and human rights defenders who document abuses against Palestinians.

Dar Ali’s detention is the latest in a series of Israeli arrests of Palestinian journalists.

Israeli occupation forces arrested four Palestinian journalists in the West Bank on 30 July, three of whom have been released on bail.

But on Sunday an Israeli military court halted the release of the fourth, Ala al-Rimawi, following a request from the military prosecutor.

In a statement through his lawyer, al-Rimawi said that Israel’s arrest campaign was aimed at frightening and intimidating Palestinian journalists from doing their jobs and reporting reality.

Al-Rimawi said that it was evident from his interrogation that Israeli authorities consider terms used by journalists such as “martyr,” “occupation,” “confrontation” and “steadfastness” to constitute incitement.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, 18 Palestinian journalists are currently held by Israel.

Prison strike solidarity

Palestinian prisoners and former prisoners affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine have sent a message of solidarity to incarcerated workers in the United States who launched a nationwide strike on 21 August.

Prison Strike 2018 comes in response to an April incident in which several prisoners died in South Carolina.

“Seven comrades lost their lives when prison officials turned their backs on a riot they provoked,” strike organizers state. “We are demanding humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform and the end of modern-day slavery.”

There are more than two million people in American prisons, a 500 percent increase over the last 40 years that is not related to trends in crime.

Mass incarceration policies that enrich private prison firms disproportionately target poor people and people of color, in particular Black men.

“Today, prison workers are some of the most exploited workers in the United States, and the same ruling class that profits from the confiscation of Palestinian land and resources and from the bombing of children in Yemen also profits from the forced labor of prisoners,” the Palestinian prisoners state.

“Your struggle is a workers struggle that is part of our global conflict against the vicious exploitation that our peoples face today.”

Published on August, 22th on The Electronic Intifada 
Author : Ali Abunimah

Press relief – Friday, 17 August 2018

Belgian artist imprisoned by Israel: Free Mustapha!

We are very concerned about the fate of our friend Mustapha Awad, a young artist and a Belgian worker of Palestinian origin. Mustapha was arrested by the Israeli authorities on 19 July 2018. There are very serious reasons to fear that he is or will be subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during his detention.

Mr. Awad is a Belgian citizen of Palestinian origin; he was born in Ain el-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon. Mr Awad was recognized as a refugee in Belgium. Since becoming a Belgian citizen, he decided to visit Palestine, his ancestral homeland.

He was arrested on the border between Jordan and Palestine by the Israeli armed forces who control the Palestinian borders.

Since then, he has been held in custody and interrogated.

For two weeks, Mustafa did not have a lawyer; no one could defend him or demand that his most basic rights be respected, such as having contact with his family members.

He only saw the Belgian consul on August 8, after 20 days of interrogation. On August 16, he appeared in court, but was again sent back to an Israeli interrogation center.

This situation is unacceptable. Palestinians imprisoned in Israel are subjected to torture and all kinds of violence during interrogations. This violence includes: physical assault, severe psychological pressure, prolonged sleep deprivation, etc. This abuse is legal under Israeli law. According to our sources, Mustapha was interrogated for 20 hours in a row at a time: three teams of interrogators took turns. In addition, Mustapha Awad has health problems and suffers from chronic, unbearable lower back pain.

Mr. Awad works in Belgium, has many friends and is a volunteer in several associations. He is an artist, performs on stage and is also a cultural worker and human rights defender. He is committed to the Palestinian cause.

As co-founder of the popular debkeh (Palestinian dance) troupe Raj’een, he has performed with the group at numerous events in Belgium and across Europe. Mustapha is a son, brother and friend of many – his family in Belgium, his family in Lebanon, his dear friends and a large community around the world that knows and supports his work.

Mustapha Awad must be released. He did not commit any crime. We are counting on Belgium to shoulder its responsibilities and protect its citizens against this arbitrary arrest and against all forms of torture and inhuman treatment.

Mustapha has always acted in defense of the human rights of Palestinians facing unjust imprisonment. Today, it is time to defend the rights of Mustapha.

Raj’een dabkeh troupe and the « Free Mustapha » Committee