Israel: Two on hunger strike for The Freedom Theatre
In an Israeli military court hearing on 5 July 2012, the Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre, Nabil Al-Raee, was accused of possessing guns, and helping a wanted person (Zakaria Zubeidi) as well as three other wanted (but unnamed) persons. In response to the accusations Nabil declared that he is starting a hunger strike from 10 July 2012.
“I don’t understand why I’m here [in detention]. There is no reason for them to keep me here,” Nabil Al-Raee is quoted to have said. Smadar Ben-Natan, Nabil’s lawyer, said: “This shows that that they are desperate, they have nothing to hold against him.”
The help Nabil is accused of rendering Zakaria – who years ago was granted amnesty by the Israeli authorities – is that he has driven him in his car and given him food and cigarettes.
Co-founder of The Freedom Theatre, Zakaria Zubeidi, who has been incarcerated in Jericho prison by the Palestinian Authority since 13 May 2012, initiated a hunger strike on 2 July 2012, protesting against that he is continuing to be denied of his rights as stated in Palestinian law.
The opening of the theatre’s latest production, an adaptation of the Caretaker by Harold Pinter, directed by Nabil Al-Raee, was scheduled for 1 July and is now postponed indefinitely.
Charged with “terror activities”
Nabil Al-Raee was taken by the Israeli army on 6 June at 03:00 in the night from his house in front of his family. For two weeks he was not allowed to communicate with his lawyer or have any contact with his family. Nor were any charges made against him. Once suspicions were eventually put forward, Nabil was first suspected of keeping information that could lead to the identification of Juliano Mer Khamis’ murderer.
In a later court hearing the Israeli prosecution claimed that Nabil was involved in “terror activities”. Then in a recent court hearing the military judge declared that no evidence of any illegal activity had come up during the almost one month of interrogations and that Nabil would be released. However the prosecution was given a 48 hour period to appeal and put forward this third, equally absurd accusation against Nabil.
Micaela Miranda, Nabil’s wife, attended the court hearing: “This farce started with them accusing Nabil of being involved somehow in the murder of Juliano, then they accused him of terror activities and now it’s something else. Every court hearing we go to there’s another accusation, it’s ridiculous and it’s obvious that they are trying to find a justification for having kept Nabil incarcerated for so long.”
Smadar Ben-Natan, Nabil’s lawyer, said: “If these are crimes then it means that everybody in Jenin camp are guilty of them. I hope that the judge in the next court hearing will understand this and that they will release him.”
The Freedom Theatre Foundation in Sweden and The Freedom Theatre Association in Jenin with its friendship associations in USA, France, Italy, Scotland and Germany rebuke these accusations as pure fabrications that are part of the Israeli occupying force’s attempt to destroy The Freedom Theatre entirely.
“Maybe they thought we would break down when Juliano Mer Khamis was assassinated, but we kept on and now they are trying to suffocate us slowly but surely by harassing our employees, members and supporters with various accusations, one more absurd than the other. This systematic harassment has gone on for a year now, it’s enough!” says Jonatan Stanczak, the Managing Director of The Freedom Theatre.
Support from abroad
Distinguished public figures such as Danny Glover, Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler along with almost 200 other people from the artistic community in the USA have called for the immediate release of Nabil and Zakaria in a statement in TimeOut magazine in New York.
Artistic communities in Germany, the UK and elsewhere have made similar calls and thousands of individuals from all over the word have signed petitions and made complaints to Israeli and Palestinian representative bodies. A few weeks ago, 56 members of the European Parliament signed a letter urging Catherine Ashton to take action and 19 members of the Portuguese parliament, from all political parties except the extreme right, called for Nabil’s release.
Human Rights Watch – 27 July 2012:
Israel/Palestinian Authority: Theater Group Hit From Both Sides
Press Release from 3 July 2012:
Artistic Director enters one month in Israeli jail and Zakaria Zubeidi starts a hunger strike
Zakaria Zubeidi, co-founder of The Freedom Theatre who has been incarcerated in Jericho prison by the Palestinian Authority since 13 May 2012, has initiated a hunger strike as he is continuing to be denied of his rights as stated in Palestinian law. At his latest scheduled hearing on 26 June 2012, Zakaria’s lawyer was not informed that he had been transformed from a civil to a military court.
“This is an action to deny me the right to meet with or speak to my client,” said Zakaria’s lawyer Farid Hawash.
“They are playing with Zakaria, juggling him between the civil and military court in order to circumvent their own so-called law,” said Jonatan Stanczak, Managing Director of The Freedom Theatre.
On 2 July, Zakaria made a statement that was passed on by a recently released prisoner saying that if necessary he will continue the hunger strike until death.
The Freedom Theatre’s Artistic Director Nabil Al-Raee’s returning home has once again been delayed for an unknown period of time. While the judge at the latest military court hearing on 1 July very clearly pointed out that Nabil was not suspected of any crime, his detention was still extended for 48 hours.
The Israeli prosecution first claimed that Nabil possessed information relating to the death of Juliano Mer Khamis, and later claimed that Nabil was involved in “terror activities”. On 2 July new charges were brought up by the Israeli prosecution, who is now accusing Nabil of “helping a wanted person”. Another military court hearing is scheduled for 5 July 2012. Nabil will then have been incarcerated for 30 days. These 30 days included his own birthday as well as his wife’s and his daughter’s birthdays.
Nabil’s wife Micaela Miranda attended the hearing on 28 June but was not allowed to speak to her husband. “What I experienced in the military court was a theatre play. This was not the law being upheld, this was a humiliating farce,” said Micaela Miranda.
The Freedom Theatre is now beginning to seriously feel the consequences of the unlawful detention of its Artistic Director. The opening of the theatre’s latest production, an adaptation of the Caretaker by Harold Pinter, directed by Nabil Al-Raee, was scheduled for 1 July and is now postponed indefinitely. Meanwhile The Freedom Theatre’s three-year professional Acting School programme is deprived of one of its managers and head teachers.
Prominent cultural figures and institutions in Occupied Palestine, the United States and the United Kingdom have made public statements in support of Nabil, Zakaria and The Freedom Theatre, as have members of the EU Parliament and the Portuguese Parliament. Individuals all over the world have signed petitions and made phone calls and emails to protest against the attacks on the theatre. (See thefreedomtheatre.org for details).
“We are calling for continued help and support to stop this harassment of the theatre and its members,” said Jonatan Stanczak. It is especially in difficult times such as these that we need all the help that we can get. See numbers to call and addresses to email here: http://thefreedomtheatre.org/news.php?id=239
For further information Jonatan Stanczak, Managing Director of The Freedom Theatre, can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and +46 (0)707908296
Micaela Miranda can be reached on email@example.com and +972(0)597016230.