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Tutu calls on Israel to release anti-wall leader

Aug. 30, 2010 3:03 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 2, 2010 11:29 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa expressed concern Saturday over the conviction of a Palestinian anti-wall campaign leader by an Israeli military court for his involvement in non-violent protests.

"I am deeply concerned about the conviction earlier this week of Abdallah Abu Rahmah by an Israeli military court. When I met him with my fellow Elders last year, we were very impressed by his commitment to non-violence and the wise leadership he showed," Tutu said in a statement.

"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," he added.

Tutu called on Israeli authorities to release Abu Rahmah "immediately and unconditionally."

Abu Rahmah, well regarded for organizing the weekly rallies against the wall in his native village Bil'in, near Ramallah, was convicted by an Israeli military court on 24 August. According to his supporters, Abu Rahmah's conviction was based solely on the testimony of minors who were arrested in the middle of the night and denied legal counsel despite significant ills in their questioning.

The General Delegation of the PLO to the US condemned the conviction "in the strongest possible terms."

"We call on the Israeli government to release Abdallah Abu Rahmah and all other Palestinian political prisoners from its jails immediately in accordance with international law and as a gesture of goodwill towards the peace talks that are about to begin in Washington," the PLO office said in a statement.

On Tuesday, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton expressed her concern over the conviction.
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