Photo: Tahsin Zaki

Demonstrators gathered in Brussels on 6 February, almost seven months since Mustapha Awad has been unjustly imprisoned in Israel. The demonstration, organized by the Free Mustapha Committee, urged the Belgian Ministry to take action on the imprisonment of the Belgian citizen, metalworker and co-founder of the Palestinian popular dance troupe Raj’een.

The protest came days after attacks on Awad were repeated by Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, charged with the global repression of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign – as well as heading the Israel Prison Service, where he has directed repeated repressive attacks against Palestinian prisoners. The Free Mustapha Committee has urged supporters of justice in Palestine to write to Mustapha behind Israeli bars. Sending a letter to Mustapha can help to lift his morale while making clear to the Israeli jailers that Mustapha is not alone. Write to him at:

Gilboa Prison
To the attention of Mr. Mustapha AWAD
POB 65
Gilboa
Israel

Photo: Tahsin Zaki

The press release of the Free Mustapha Committee follows (original in French) :

It has been almost seven months that Mustapha Awad has been imprisoned in Israel.

Supporters of the Free Mustapha Committee gathered in front of the Belgian Foreign Ministry in Brussels, Belgium on 6 February. There, a delegation comprised of An Muylaert, Mustapha’s Belgian adoptive mother, Alexis Deswaef, honorary president of the League for Human Rights, and Myriam De Ly of the Free Mustapha Committee, visited the Foreign Ministry. The delegation had asked for an appointment with the minister or members of cabinet, but were instead received by administrative staff – sending a message in and of itself about the Belgian government’s failure to support Mustapha.

The delegation wished to make clear that an early release of Mustapha may be possible in March, after completing two-thirds of his “sentence,” but that Belgium’s intervention is absolutely critical in this regard.

From the beginning, the representatives of the Ministry said that Belgium would not intervene.

Alexis Deswaef gave a review of the history of five meetings between the Committee and the Ministry: “At the first meeting, we were told that we had to be patient, that diplomacy was progressing, that we would first make verbal notes. Then it was said that this is an exceptional case and it was necessary to wait for the trial. And now that the sentencing has taken place, but an early release is possible, we are told that nothing can be done. Belgium’s attitude was completely opposite in the case of the arrest of Amaya Coppens in Nicaragua. Minister Reynders intervened the day after her arrest with the Nicaraguan government. Why these two weights, two measures? Because it’s Israel.

An Muylaert, the spokesperson for Mustapha’s family in Lebanon and his Belgian adoptive mother, said once again that for over six and a half months, she has not even been able to hear Mustapha’s voice. Even a telephone call between them is banned: an intolerable situation, from a human point of view. This is one factor that leads Mr. Deswaef to say that Mustapha’s conditions of detention do not comply with international laws. Even one of his basic rights, seeing or calling his relatives, is not respected. At the time of his interrogation, Mustapha also underwent inhumane treatment: sleep deprivation and interrogations for 20 out of 24 hours in a day.

Myriam De Ly, speaking for the Free Mustapha Committee, spoke about Mustapha’s conditions of detention, held in the high-security prison of Gilboa. In late January, elite troops sent by the internal security minister Gilad Erdan invaded Israeli prisons with dogs, batons, machine guns, tear gas. 150 prisoners were seriously injured in Ofer prison. Mustapha, imprisoned in Gilboa, is not immune to this type of experience.

Alexis Deswaef also discussed an official report issued by that same minister, also responsible for “Strategic Affairs,” a text sent to international bodies attacking human rights defenders like Shawan Jabarin, the representative of Al-Haq and General Secretary of FIDH; Salah Hamouri, the recently released French-Palestinian lawyer; and Mustapha Awad, calling them “terrorists.”

Belgium should not accept these kinds of smears against its citizens. We ourselves can now be treated as “terrorists in suits.”

Photo: Tahsin Zaki

The Free Mustapha Committee has gone again and again to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Belgium could have helped to release Mustapha from his detention. It can still. But over the course of these meetings, the delegation has understood clearly that Belgium does not have the political will to act.

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The next action to support Mustapha Awad will take place on 17 February at Het Wereldhuis in Aalst, where people will gather to write letters in solidarity with Mustapha. People can find out more and RSVP at the event Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/341107900078001/