South Africa’s anti-apartheid icons have launched an international campaign for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including lawmaker Marwan Bargouti.
"What I saw in Palestine is worse than what I saw during the apartheid," Ahmed Kathrada said Sunday during the launch of the campaign at Robben Island, where he spent several years in jail together with South African freedom icon and ex-president Nelson Mandela.
"Israel treats Palestinians as less than human being. They treat Palestinians with contempt," regretted Kathrada, who visited the Palestinian territory earlier this year.
There are more than 5,000 Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails, including 12 women and 180 children, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Club.
"Today we are launching this campaign for the release of Marwan Bargouti and all his comrades in Prison," said Kathrada, who spent nearly 30 years of his adult life in apartheid jails for resisting oppression.
Barghouti was detailed by Israeli occupation forces in 2002 and is serving five life sentences on accusations of killing Israelis.
He was the first member of the Palestinian Legislative Council to be detained by Israel and is one of the most prominent Palestinian political prisoners.
Sunday's event saw the official launch of the campaign with the signing of the Robben Island Declaration in support of the "Free Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian Political Prisoners."
"The declaration was signed in the former prison cell of Nelson Mandela in B Section of Robben Island," the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in South Africa (BDS South Africa) said in a statement issued Monday.
It noted that some of the initial signatories were former Robben Island political prisoners, including Kathrada and Kwedie Nkalipie.
Other signatories included Fadwa Barghouti, the wife of the jailed Palestinian leader, as well as figures from the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC).
Kathrada vowed to work for the release of all Palestinian prisoners.
"This is the beginning of a campaign which we hope will surpass the release of Mandela campaign," he said.
In 1963, Kathrada launched the "Release Mandela" campaign which led to his arrest and imprisonment at Robben Island where he spent nearly two decades.
"They forget that there was no Israel until 1948, when Israel was given birth on Palestinian territory. It’s easy for them to forget," he asserted.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, another anti-apartheid stalwart, has added his voice to the campaign.
"I am proud to associate myself with the global campaign for the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and other Palestinian political prisoners," he said in a message read on his behalf.
Archbishop Tutu said he could think of no better place than Robben Island for the launch of the campaign.
He congratulated Kathrada for personally leading the campaign.
"As South Africans, we feel very proud to be able to put our experience of the power of solidarity into action for the benefit of others, under the leadership of Kathrada."
He asserted that South Africa could not have achieved its democracy without the contribution of friends around the world.
AALast Mod: 29 Ekim 2013, 09:45