Palestinian Mufti, political factions call for release of Iraq hostages

Transcript of Palestinian Press Conference Calling for the Release of the Four CPT Hostages in Iraq

December 5th, 3 p.m. 2005
International Solidarity Movement

Each of the following people spoke in Arabic unless noted otherwise. The following is a transcript of the English translation that was provided by the ISM host.

Ikram al Sabri, the head Mufti of Palestine:

[Recording starts part way through]

“Kidnapping is not a civilised way to resist. The people kidnapped in Iraq used to work in Palestine. They were supporting us and struggling with us against the apartheid wall, they were supporting our position. They have been standing with our children in Hebron. There is a duty for all Palestinian people, institutions and factions to commit to sending a call to release these people who have been kidnapped. They are very important for us to help continue our struggle, whether here in Palestine or in Iraq, to gain our country’s freedom. We repeat our call to release all the civilian people who have been kidnapped all over the world, not only these four. They are not guilty of occupation, they are not engaged in any military or political help to the occupation, either here in Palestine or in Iraq. There is no doubt that the violence in Iraq hurts us all, and the reason for the violence in Iraq is the American occupation. So the occupation is the ultimate cause of violence and suffering of people there. We would like to thank everyone in the press who has helped us send this call to release them all. They have made a commitment to continue their social and humanitarian work in Palestine and Iraq.”

Dr. Wasif Abu-Yousef, a representative of the National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (an umbrella group representing all Palestinian political parties):

“I send my thanks to all the media who have covered this.

These activists have challenged their governments and armies. These four people and all the activists in CPT have challenged the Israeli occupation in Palestine and the settlers in Hebron, in order to support the Palestinian people. We in the National and Islamic Forces are sure that they are standing side by side with the Palestinian people here and the people in Iraq. They are soldiers for peace. They decided to come here to stand side by side with us and in Iraq too. From the heart of Palestine, we condemn and are completely against the process of kidnapping these four people in Iraq. This state of chaos, killings, and criminal acts that have been happening in Iraq will not help the Iraqi people. On the contrary, there are people who will make use of this. The occupation will use this as an excuse to continue. These four people are loyal and faithful people working for peace in Palestine and Iraq. We say there should be freedom for people who have been fighting for our freedom. We have a press release that will be handed out at the end of the conference, condemning these kidnapping, on behalf of the National and Islamic Forces. We say that this accusation of them being spies or collaborators with the American and English occupation in Iraq is an invalid accusation. This is not true because they have proved their solidarity and steadfastness side-by-side with the people here in Palestine. We say we are against the process of killing and executing people, especially the people who came to Palestine and were chaining themselves to homes that were threatened with demolition. Some of them were even martyrs, like our friends Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall. Some were injured or denied entry, some of them have been deported. They have suffered side by side with us. They are real heros, they proved themselves by their acts in the field here. Again we say that we here in Palestine should stand side by side with them. We want these people to be released and to be back in full health without being injured or harmed and to be back continuing their work as defenders of the people against oppression and occupation in both countries. We send our calls for the immediate release of the four peoples and call on all people, parties, institutions, factions in Palestine to intensify their work here to send a call and to make efforts to get these people released. They have a critically important role in supporting people under oppression.”

Ferial Abu-Hakil, the Headmistress of Qataba school, Hebron:

“These people have been working with us. They protect the girl students while they go to school in the morning and return in the afternoon. They witness the violence from the Israeli soldiers towards the Palestinians, or even to them at the same time. We still remember the nice moments while we were under curfew with the CPT members who we have known since 1995. They came and gave food to people under curfew and showed their love and solidarity with our schools and our children. We will never forget these moments, because the CPT were the only people standing with us at that time. We suddenly heard this terrible news four of the people who work with us had been kidnapped in Iraq. As a women who works with them, I send my call for the Iraqi resistance to release these people because CPT are very important people for us. To Bush I say that democracy is not imposed — democracy is given by people, not given by armies. We are sending our call for the faction that kidnapped these people in Iraq to release them immediately because we need them here.”

Christan Anderson of CPT Hebron (transcript of English original):

“The Christian Peacemaker Teams are committed to opposing war and occupation. For the last three years, CPT in Iraq has assisted families of detainees in locating loved ones. Now there are CPTers who are being held in Iraq and we need your help. First we would like to thank everyone involved in organising this press conference on behalf of our four friends taken in Iraq. Thank you to the media and thank you for those who have spoken on our behalf. We have been humbled by the hundreds of Palestinians who have issued statements and supported us during this past week. We especially thank our friends in Hebron and Tawani. As members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, we have the luxury of leaving our homes and entering into countries under occupation. We understand the risks associated with our work but choose to do so on behalf of those who do not have this choice. Millions of people in Palestine and Iraq must daily struggle to live everyday lives under occupation. For the past ten years it has been our privilege to live with you in Palestine. We have witnessed your strength in struggling for freedom and have grown stronger ourselves as a result of your testimonies. Together we have stood for hours at checkpoints, slept in homes slated for demolition, been beaten by violent settlers and fought against land confiscation. Much of our work in Iraq has been the same. For the past three years, CPT in Iraq has lived in solidarity with the Iraqi people who have suffered under the unjust occupation of US and coalition forces. CPTers in Iraq have assisted families of detainees in locating loved ones and have accompanied them to US-run prisons for the sake of visits and gathering information. CPTers in Iraq have celebrated upon the release of Iraqis and heard horrible stories about their abuse, exposing these abuses in the Western media. CPTers in Iraq have travelled to Falluja on numerous occasions to report on the destruction caused by the US military sieges. We have reported on war crime violations committed by the occupying forces and have lobbied for change in the responsible governing bodies. CPT has continuously opposed occupation in both Palestine and Iraq and will continue to stand with you. This is a difficult time for CPT. We miss our friends and desire them to return to us. They are men who have worked for justice and freedom. So while remembering them, let us remember the thousands of peaceful people being detained by occupying forces throughout the world, and while we ask for a release of our friends, we will continue to work to end the occupations in Palestine and Iraq.

We thank you for your support during this difficult time.”

No English translation of the speech of Abu Hasan, the director of the Islamic Federation of Scholars, was provided due to time restraints.

A demonstration calling for the release of the four will be held at 12:30 tomorrow in Hebron in front of the Red Cross building, on Ein-Sara street.

On Wednesday the 7th, a candle-lit demonstration calling for the release of the four will be held in Ramallah meeting at al-Manara at 4:30pm.

For more information:

For tomorrow’s demonstration call:
CPT Hebron: 02 222 8485

For Wednesday’s demonstration call:
ISM Media office: 02 297 1824 or 057 572 0754

AP photos:

See our last post on the Iraq hostage crisis.

  1. Hamas head in Damascus, Hezbollah, among 25 Islamic figures sign
    Muslim groups urge Iraq captors to free Westerners
    05 Dec 2005 20:16:59 GMT
    Source: Reuters
    (Adds British Foreign Office comments, paragraphs 8-11)

    LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) – Muslim scholars and activists from around the world, including leaders of the militant Hamas and Hizbollah groups, appealed on Monday for the release of four Western peace activists kidnapped in Iraq last week.

    “Such peace activists should have been welcomed into Iraq and treated as honourable guests instead of being kidnapped and used as bargaining chips,” said a statement issued by the Muslim Association of Britain and signed by 25 Muslim figures.

    Khaled Mishaal, head of the political bureau of the Palestinian Hamas movement, and two officials of the Lebanese Hizbollah guerrilla group were among the signatories, along with clerics and scholars from Algeria to Malaysia.

    “While fully supporting the right of the Iraqi people to resist occupation with all legitimate means, we denounce as illegitimate any act of aggression against innocent civilians,” the statement said.

    “We therefore call for the immediate release of these four hostages and of all other Western civilians kidnapped in Iraq.”

    The four Christian peace activists — Briton Norman Kember and two colleagues from Canada and one from the United States — were kidnapped in Baghdad on Nov. 26. A German archaeologist and aid worker, Susanne Osthoff, was abducted a day earlier.

    On Monday gunmen seized a French engineer, Bernard Planche, who worked at a Baghdad water treatment plant.

    Britain’s Foreign Office denied media reports that contact had been made with Kember’s kidnappers.

    “Sadly, while wishing this were the case, it has not happened,” a spokesman said. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain would not negotiate with kidnappers or pay ransoms but it was open to hearing from the group holding Kember.

    “If the hostage-takers want to make contact with the British government we stand ready to hear what they have to say,” Straw told reporters in London.

    Thousands of civilians have been kidnapped in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, including over 200 foreigners. Many fall victim to criminal gangs seeking ransom but insurgent groups have also often demanded foreign forces quit Iraq.

    Most foreign hostages have been released, but around 50 have been executed — some by beheadings in front of cameras.

    A previously unknown group calling itself “Swords of Truth” has threatened to kill the four peace activists unless Iraqi detainees are freed by Thursday. The four work for Christian Peacemaker Teams, one of the few aid groups still operating in Iraq.

    The captors of Osthoff and her Iraqi driver have also vowed to kill their hostages unless Germany stops cooperating with the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad. (Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers)

  2. The Canadian Muslim Forum (CMF) appeals to those holding
    The Canadian Muslim Forum (CMF) appeals to those holding the four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq to ensure their unconditional safe release


    Montreal December 5th, 2005: — Canadian Muslim Forum (CMF), a political public relation organization, expresses its sadness and serious concern for the kidnapping of four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq.

    CMF fully acknowledges the plight of the Iraqi prisoners and the suffering of the Iraqi people under foreign occupation. Nonetheless, we plea with those holding Tom Fox, Norman Kembler, James Looney, and Harmeet Singh Sooden to set them free.

    CMF considers Christian Peacemaker Teams true friends and unwavering supporters who have sided by the Muslim community in Canada, in its quest to uphold values of social justice and civil liberties, and more specifically after September 11 2001.

    CMF recognises CPT strong reputation and strong commitment to justice and peace, and we are aware that CPT has taken positions against the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the occupation of Palestine, and the mistreatment of Muslims in Canada. In addition, CPT has consistently demonstrated a deep respect for the Islamic faith and for the right of all peoples to self-determination. They do not work in the service of any government, nor do they accept money from any government.

    In Iraq, CMF has learnt that the four CPT members have advocated for the freedom of the prisoners of the occupation forces, have assisted families to find their missing loved ones, and have been invaluable in documenting abuse and torture suffered at the hands of occupation forces.

    Moreover, the work of CPT has been invaluable in informing North Americans about the abuses that are taking place daily in Iraq. Hindering or preventing this information flow will be a great loss to the Iraqi people and their supporters.

    In light of the above, and as a humanitarian action obligated by God on all of us, and in appreciation for their work in Palestine and Iraq as witnesses, and their solidarity with the Muslim community in Canada, CMF appeals to you to set free the four members of CPT unharmed.

    Furthermore, CMF urges all concerned organizations and governments to practice cautions and restraints in their action to secure the safe release of the captives, and to work hard toward an end to the suffering of the Iraqi people and the occupation of the country.

    – END –

    Note: This statement has been coordinated between several Muslim Organizations in Canada.

    For further information please contact: Dr. Bachar Elsolh, President (514) 983-5323 Samer Majzoub VP NGO relation (514) 884-0852 Mohamed S. Kamel, ing. VP federal relation (514) 863-9202

    CMF could be reached at: C.P. 92037, Brossard, Québec, Canada, J4W 3K8 Tel: (514) 748-7901, Fax: (514) 748-0251 e-mail:

  3. Show clemency to hostages, writes Palestinian
    Show clemency to hostages
    Release the four, including two Canadian members of Christian Peacemaker Teams
    Dec. 5, 2005. 01:00 AM

    Harmeet Sing Sooden and James Loney are two Canadians kidnapped by a “previously unknown group.” Since when do we expect our neighbourly allies to care about us Canadians? Our choice was the right choice after all. The war launched in March of 2003 was, and will always be, noted as illegal. The unfortunate circumstance is that any Westerner will be related to the so-called coalition.

    The coalition is mostly American and the other participating countries were and will be ridiculed for their pathetic numbers. What the American administration sought was to have a multi-national force like the one in the first Gulf war. This (present) war was launched illegally and the majority of the people of the nations that included themselves in the “coalition of the willing” were opposed to this immoral war. Now who is to blame? Politicians? United States President George W. Bush?

    The two Canadians, out of the four Westerners kidnapped, are perceived as invaders since Bush speaks on behalf of all Westerners. How wrong is he and how wrong were the kidnappers? That is a question to be answered by the ever-supreme commander of the “free world”. For a people to have their land invaded and their resources stolen is something that no one will ever accept.

    Any questioning of the motives behind the kidnappings does not warrant the characterization of that argument as a form of justification. On the contrary, it is a way to expose the extent of abuse the powerful impose on the powerless.

    The Christian Peacemaker Teams have an excellent record with regard to their achievements. They have been active in the occupied Palestinian territories and have braved the indiscriminant harassment of the Israeli occupation forces and the settlers. Their selfless acts saved many Palestinian children as team members exposed themselves to killing machines.

    Their ideology is being applied in occupied Iraq and their aim is to end the brutal occupation and to protect the innocents.

    By showing clemency and exhibiting the true face of Islam and thus freeing these four, the Iraqis will win a battle that no war waged by any supreme power can win. Humanity is our salvation in a truly peaceful world. As a Palestinian, I ask that all four hostages be released and set free to do what they do best— that is to end the suffering of the oppressed.

    Rashid Abu-Ghazalah, Toronto