Zakaria Zubeidi, theatre director and one of the founders of the Freedom Theatre in Jenin, Palestine, was released on 1 October 2012. He has been detained in a prison in Jericho since 13 May 2012, most of the time without charges.
Zubeidi was detained during a wave of raids and arrests in his home city Jenin that followed an attack by gunmen on the home of Jenin’s Governor Qaddura Musa. The governor died of a heart attack shortly after. Palestinian investigators linked a weapon that was used in the attack to Zubeidi, but Zubeidi himself denies any involvement in the attack.
It was not until recently that formal charges were made against Zubeidi, which means that he was detained for over four months without charges. The formal charges states that he is suspected of involvement in the shooting attack on Jenin’s governor. Zubeidi denies these charges and says they are baseless because of the absence of any evidence. He also stresses that he had a good relationship with Qaddura Musa.
Zubeidi is a former commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, but in 2006 he publicly renounced armed struggle in favour of cultural resistance through theatre. “I moved on to cultural work because we can resist through culture and theatre and by these means I can deliver the message of the Palestinian people who suffer under the yoke of the Israeli occupation”, he said in a message published on the Freedom Theatre’s web page.
Zubeidi is the director and co-founder of Jenin’s Freedom Theatre. The theatre is controversial both inIsraeland inPalestinebecause it has criticized the actions of both states.
The theatre also has an enemy in the conservative forces in the Jenin refugee camp because of its gender-mixed acting workshops as well as its progressive outlook. “We challenge power structures, we are provocative,” Jonatan Stanczak, theatre manager, said to the Guardian in September. “If we didn’t, what would be the purpose of our work.”
Tortured in detention
In a press conference after his release, Zubeidi describes how his arrest was more or less a kidnapping where National Security put a bag over his head and handcuffed him. “I didn’t know where I was”, he said. He was not handed an arrest warrant and was given no reasons for the arrest.
Zubeidi describes how he was kept in cells not suitable for human beings and how he was abused and tortured during the investigation period. During the first 50 days of his detention he was held in solitary confinement and he was denied access to a lawyer for more than two weeks.
During his detention, Zubeidi has carried out two hunger strikes protesting against inhumane treatment as well as violation of rule of law such as his detention without charge. One of the hunger strikes almost led to his death.
More than 3000 people worldwide have signed petitions calling for his release.
Watch Zakaria Zubeidi’s thank you message recorded at the Freedom Theatre here.
The Freedom Theatre – 9 October 2012:
A message from Zakaria Zubeidi
The Guardian – 4 October 2012:
Palestinian theatre director Zakaria Zubeidi is released on bail
The Freedom Theatre – 2 October 2012:
Press Conference With Zakaria Zubeidi
The Guardian – 18 September 2012:
Detained Palestinian theatre director resumes hunger strike