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Free The Christian Peacemaker Team Hostages In Iraq

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It was Tuesday June 21, 2005 that this reporter first met a half dozen of the volunteers with CPT/Christian Peacemaker Team members. They were all between 60 to 80 years old and had left the comfort of home in the USA and UK for six months to walk little Palestinian kids back and forth to school. They risk their own lives to protect women and children from the harassement by the illegal settlers/colonists who have taken over their neigborhood.

My guide was Jerry Levin who had been CNN's Mid East Bureau Chief in the 1980's. A secular Jew at the time he was abducted and held hostage in Lebanon for nearly a year but escaped with help from his wife and others. Levin is a 100% volunteer with CPT and has been reporting for years about Iraq and the West Bank. [West Bank Diaries available]

CPT has been present in Iraq since October 2002, providing first-hand, independent reports from the region, working with detainees of both United States and Iraqi forces, and training others in non-violent intervention and human rights documentation. Christian Peacemaker Teams is a violence reduction program. Teams of trained peacemakers work in areas of lethal conflict around the world.

The work of CPT in Iraq over the last three years, including CPT's work to highlight abuse of Iraqi detainees, several months before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was made public; it also contains details of the four members of CPT who were abducted.

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have worked for the rights of Iraqi prisoners who have been illegally detained and abused. They were the first people to publicly denounce the torture of Iraqi people at the hands of U.S. forces, long before the western media admitted what was happening at Abu Ghraib. They are some of the few internationals left in Iraq reporting accurately and consistently what is happening to the Iraqi people."

Up until now the USA media has ignored the CPT statement that Al Jazeera reported:

"We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. government due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people. CPT has worked for the rights of Iraqi prisoners who have been illegally detained and abused by the U.S. government. We were the first people to publicly denounce the torture of Iraqi people at the hands of U.S. forces, long before the western media admitted what was happening at Abu Ghraib. We are some of the few internationals left in Iraq who are telling the truth about what is happening to the Iraqi people We hope that we can continue to do this work and we pray for the speedy release of our beloved teammates."

Outside of a mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday Nov 30, 2005, Palestinians, led by their top Muslim cleric, appealed to Iraqi insurgents. They demanded the release of the four Western peace activists, saying three of them had spent time in the West Bank aiding the Palestinians. They carried a banner which stated in Arabic:
"We demand the release of the CPT members: CPT are friends of Palastine and the Arabs, release them."
On November 30, 2005 the National and Islamic Forces in Hebron held a press conference to ask for the release of four CPTers being held by an Iraqi armed group. The speakers were: Sheikh Najib Al Ja'abri of the Ali Baka'a Mosque in the Haret e-Sheikh neighborhood of Hebron. Abdul 'Alim Dana of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, followed by Fahmi Shahin, Coordinator of the National and Islamic Forces in Hebron, representing the Palestine People's Party. All demanded release for the four CPT captives.

At the press conference, Fariel Abu Haikal, Headmistress of Qurtuba Girls' School, emphasized the difference between CPTers and the American government. "Saif al-Haq ('Sword of Justice,' the Iraqi armed group holding the CPTers) I don't know, but these problems in Iraq, they come from George Bush. He is the problem, not CPT." She described the accompaniment that CPTers have provided for teachers and students at her school, who are often assaulted by Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Beit Hadassah.

The last Palestinian to speak was Jamal Miqbal of Beit Ummar. Jamal and his family live in the shadow of the Israeli settlement of Karme Tzur, and the Israeli military issued a demolition order on their home. Many CPTers have stayed at their home, both in tense times when the Miqbals feared that the bulldozer would come, and in more relaxed seasons.

At the conclusion of the press conference, CPT spokesmen read this message:
"We are very worried about our four friends. We fear that whoever is holding them has made a mistake. They are four men who went to Iraq to work for peace. They oppose the occupation. They are not spies."
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May 'we the people' in the USA continue to learn the truth and then act upon it.

Eileen Fleming, author, human rights activist, Clermont, FL
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Eileen Fleming,is a Citizen of CONSCIENCE for US House of Representatives 2012 Founder of Staff Member of, A Feature Correspondent for Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" (more...)
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