16 April 2014
The Deputy President of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, has signed the Robben Island Declaration calling for the freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian political prisoners.
Motlanthe met struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada days before the 12th anniversary of Barghouthi’s incarceration. The meeting also preceded Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, marked annually on April 17, to remember the sacrifices of the over 5000 Palestinian political prisoners currently in Israeli jails.
Considered to be the Nelson Mandela of Palestine, Barghouthi is being held in an Israeli prison after he was abducted by the occupation forces on April 15, 2002. He was the first Palestinian Member of Parliament to be arrested by Israel.
Following what international observers described as a “political show-trial”, Barghouthi was sentenced to five life sentences in prison after being convicted on five counts of murder. Barghouthi refused to recognise the legitimacy of the occupation court.
Motlanthe pledged his support to the campaign by signing the Declaration, which calls on the international community to take moral, legal and political responsibility to assist the Palestinians in their quest for freedom and dignity.
The Declaration was first signed on Robben Island by Kathrada, his fellow South African political prisoner, Kwedie Mkalipi, and Barghouthi’s wife, Fadwa, at last year’s launch of global campaign for the jailed Palestinian leader’s release.
The Deputy President – who a few years ago visited Palestine – said the initiative was significant, given the success of the Free Mandela Campaign in mobilising support for the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.
The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s director, Neeshan Balton, explained that the Declaration will be sent to leaders of various political parties. “We hope that our political leaders can take a moral stand in support of Palestinian political prisoners and against Israeli apartheid,” he said.
The Declaration has thus far been signed by international political figures, Nobel Peace Prize laureates, artists, intellectuals, human rights activists, former political prisoners and thousands of others from some 30 different countries.
“We are urging South Africans, especially those in positions of power, to sign the Declaration. By the end of the year, we hope to secure 100 000 signatures in South Africa for the freedom of Barghouthi and all Palestinian political prisoners,” Balton added.
Kathrada, on the anniversary of Barghouthi’s arrest, reaffirmed his commitment to the campaign. “One of the most important indicators of the readiness to make peace with one’s adversary, is the release of all political prisoners. If Israel is interested in peace, it should release Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestianian political prisoners,” Kathrada said.
The former Robben Island prisoner earlier this month, returned from London, where at the House of Commons, he urged British parliamentarians to be part of the initiative.
Kathrada said he hoped the campaign to free Barghouthi “will take on the proportions of the Free Nelson Mandela Campaign”.
His visit to the UK came in the wake of the fragile US led negotiations between Palestine and Israel. With Barghouthi said to be the most popular political figure in Palestine today, his release has been made a pre-condition by the Palestinians, for an extension of talks beyond the April 29 deadline for a peace deal framework.
Issued by Zaakirah Vadi
Communications officer – Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
Tel: 011 854 0082 / Cell: 076 243 1185
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