Gaza: Two executions by Hamas 'deplorable'

Amnesty International has today condemned the execution by Hamas of two Palestinian men in Gaza in the early hours of this morning. Both men were convicted last year by Gazan military courts of charges of “collaboration” with the Israeli military and involvement in murder.

Amnesty International Middle East Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“Today’s executions are an extremely retrograde step by Hamas. As the first executions since 2005, we are gravely concerned for the other Palestinian prisoners in Gaza who have been given death sentences by the military courts.

“We deplore that these men were convicted in unfair military proceedings.”

While a number of people accused of “collaboration” have been killed in Gaza by Hamas militias and other armed groups since its takeover of power in June 2007, today’s executions represent the first formal executions carried out by the Hamas de facto authority in Gaza.

In a statement released by the authorities this morning, the head of military justice in Gaza, Colonel Ahmed Atallah, confirmed the execution of Nasser Salama Mohammed Abu Freih from Jabaliyya in northern Gaza, and Mohammed Ibrahim Ahmed Isma’il (known as al-Sab’a) from Rafah in the south.  The bodies of the two men were brought to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City this morning; both men had reportedly been shot.

Nasser Abu Freih, a 34-year-old police sergeant, was convicted of treason and involvement in murder by a military court in Gaza on 22 February 2009 and sentenced to death by firing squad. Mohammed Isma’il, a 36-year-old taxi driver, was sentenced to death by hanging on 3 November 2009 on charges of espionage and cooperation with hostile parties, and being an accessory to murder.

Background
Under Palestinian law, death sentences must be ratified by the Palestinian Authority (PA) President before they can be carried out.  Due to the ongoing stand-off between the Hamas de facto administration and the PA, death sentences passed by Hamas military courts since June 2007 have not received the presidential ratification necessary for their implementation.

Concerns were raised in March when high-ranking Hamas officials announced their intention to start executing prisoners convicted of collaboration and murder. On 31 March Amnesty urged Hamas not to implement outstanding death sentences.

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