On the killing of Vik Vittorio Arrigoni

*(photo from 2011) monument to “Vik” Vittorio Arrigoni, Italian justice and peace activist. Jaber and Leila, farmers Vik worked with in the border region east of Khan Younis, were also close friends. They erected the monument as a humble tribute to him

Although he was killed a year and a half ago, in April 2011, only recently has the verdict been issued in the trial for the killers of “Vik” (Vittorio) Arrigoni, an Italian long-time justice and peace activist.

After his murder last year, I wrote about my friend and colleague Vik, as did an overwhelming number of Palestinians from Gaza, from all over occupied Palestine, and friends and supporters around the world.

Adie, who attended the trial on September 17, 2012 in Gaza City, wrote:

We waited for 2 hours outside the court, some of that time filled with our stories of Vittorio, the fond memories and a laugh or two.

Then finally the judge Ata Mansour called everybody in for the sentence for at least some of the people who conspired to kill Vittorio. Life imprisonment (25 years) and 10 years hard labour for Salfiti Mahmoud (b 1988) and Hasasna Tamer (b 1966) – guilty of kidnap and murder. 10 years hard labour for Jrem Khader (b 1984) found guilty of participating in the kidnapping. Ahmed abu Ghoula was given one year sentence already served for helping the murderers to escape and find refuge in his house in Nuseirat. Abdel Rahman Breizat the leader who had entered from Jordan a year before and Bilal El Omari were killed by the security forces during the pursuit soon after Vittorio’s death.

We still will not get the full story of Breizat’s origins and intentions.

The sentences are probably just, the mother of Vittorio sent a letter asking to not give the death sentence because Vittorio did not believe in it. Vittorio only believed in doing as much as he can to raise the lives of people who’ve had it rough, and fight with courage against those brutally denying people the most basic of freedoms, most recently here in the Gaza Strip.

Although some closure has come, these prison sentences will not bring back the person we know and love.

But the power of his message, the humanity of his actions, the strength of his heart and that huge great spirit and warmth will live on and on inside all of us lucky enough to have come into contact and been great friends with him.

Stay Human

Khalil Shaheen, from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, spoke of the verdict:

PCHR press release on the court verdict here:

On Monday morning, 17 September 2012, the Permanent Military Court is Gaza issued its judgment in the case of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni’s murder. The Court convicted the first defendant (M.S.) and second defendant (T.H.) of premeditated killing and kidnapping for the purpose of killing. They were each sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor and 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor; the more severe of the two punishments will be applied.

The court also sentenced the third defendant (K.E.) to 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor, after convicting him of kidnapping for the purpose of killing. The fourth defendant (A.G.) was convicted of harboring fugitives and sentenced to one year of imprisonment.

PCHR lawyers attended today’s hearing in their capacity as the legal representatives of the Arrigoni family. They have also attended all hearings for the case since the court began considerations on 11 August 2011. PCHR has also followed all of the developments of the case and provided the court’s panel with letters from the Arrigoni family.

The Italian activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, was killed,after being kidnapped in the evening of 14 April 2011, by a group that called itself the “A-Hammam Mohammed Bin Maslama Group.” The Palestinian police found his body 15 April 2011 in a house in the ‘Amer housing project west of Jabalya, located in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

In light of the judgment issued in the case of Arrigoni’s murder, PCHR would like to draw attention to the following:

– 3 of the persons who were involved in kidnapping and murdering the Italian activist were subsequently killed in armed clashes between them and Palestinian security forces that besieged the house where they werehiding in al-Nussairat refugee camp in the central part of the Gaza Strip.

–PCHR officially demanded the court’s panel, in writing, to abstain from applying the death penalty to the defendants if they are convicted, based on its position rejecting the death penalty and in response to the Arrigoni family’s wish, which they expressed in a letter dated 16 December 2011. The family wanted a fair trial for the defendants in accordance with the requirements of the international law and called for the death penalty to not be applied against the defendants if they were convicted.

–PCHR, like the Arrigoni family, is satisfied by the sentences issued by the Court, which can be described, under the circumstances surrounding the case, as fair and legitimate, and considers that the murderers of Arrigoni have been effectively tried.

–PCHR has followed this case in honor of Vittorio Arrigoni’s soul and out of its moral commitment towards international solidarity activists, who may lose their lives because of their support for the rights of Palestinian people, like what happened to Arrigoni and the American activist Rachel Corrie.

Al Akhbar news reported on the verdict, highlighting the secrecy and unknown origins and funding of Salafis in Gaza:

Jihadi Salafi groups, linked to the international networks led by al-Qaeda, and calling for an Islamic caliphate and jihad against pagans, only emerged in Gaza a few years ago. Their number is unknown. Some Gazans believe there are dozens of such groups, though there are probably far fewer. Their members are mostly former members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or the Salaheddin Brigades. While not numerous, their activities are shrouded in secrecy. Nobody knows where their funding comes from, the names of their leaders, or where they train their fighters.

Hamas has had a frequently fraught relationship with the Salafis since it took over in the Gaza Strip. After it assumed control in 2007, jihadi Salafi leader Abdul-Latif Moussa proclaimed from Rafah the establishment of an Islamic state. Armed clashes ensued between Hamas security forces and Moussa’s supporters, leading to his death along with a number of his followers inside the mosque where he preached.

Hamas later launched an extensive campaign of arrests targeting Salafis, declaring it would not tolerate illegal activities in the name of religion.

Tensions flared again in April 2011 when an Italian solidarity activist, Vittorio Arrigoni, was kidnapped and murdered by a group of Salafis demanding the release of their leader from detention by Hamas security forces. This triggered a fresh showdown, which ended three days later after Hamas located and raided the kidnappers’ hideout, leading to the death of one and the suicide of another before he could be captured.

Tributes to Vik:

Various tributes and reports on Vik here

Ramzy Baroud’s tribute here

Palestinian youth from Gaza tribute here

*Jaber and Leila’s tribute to Vik

*graffiti for Vik found throughout Gaza

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One comment

  1. It makes me feel quite weepy reading all this. The last photo is surely as fine a tribute that anyone could ever wish for. A true dreamer who never, ever gave up or broke faith with his adopted home. What a winner indeed. And how you all must miss him.

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