August 21: Protest in NYC to Free Nestora Salgado!

The Anti-Oppression Forum (AOF) is proud to participate in tomorrow’s International Day of Protest to Free Nestora Salgado and All Political Prisoners. The event comes on the first anniversary of Nestora’s unjust imprisonment. AOF folks will be down in New York City tomorrow (August 21) to protest outside the Mexican Consulate, 27 E 39th Street, Manhattan (between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue). For more info on the event, call Stephen Durham of the Free Nestora campaign at (917) 714-6453 or e-mail FreeNestora.NYC@gmail.com

For more on Nestora’s case, visit FreeNestora.org

 

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Palestinian Prisoners “At the Edge of Death” As Hunger Strike Continues

by Shahd Abusalama, Electronic Intifada

Palestinians in Gaza City have launched a solidarity hunger strike in a sit-in protest outside the Red Cross. (Ahmad Abu Hussein)

Our Palestinian detainees have been battling the Israel Prison Service (IPS) with their empty stomachs since 24 April, embarking on the longest-known mass hunger strike in the history of the Palestinian prisoners movement. Hunger is the only remaining weapon they can use against the IPS and its well-armed Israeli occupation soldiers.

They launched this hunger strike to call for an end to their detention with no charge or trial based on secret “evidence” submitted to a military court that is kept from the detainees and their lawyers — an unjust policy that Israel calls administrative detention. One hundred and twenty administrative detainees launched this mass hunger strike which grew to involve nearly three hundred prisoners, according to the rights group Addameer.

Our dignified prisoners are striking in protest of Israel’s violation of an agreement reached with the IPS after the 28-day mass hunger strike that ended on 14 May 2012. According to that deal, the use of administrative detention — the key issue behind the hunger strike – would be restricted and administrative detention orders would not be renewed without fresh evidence being brought before a military judge. However, Israel did not abide by the agreement and has continued its practice of arbitrary administrative detention.

Strikers hospitalized

Administrative detainee Ayman Tbeisheh from Dura village near Hebron in the occupied West Bank has exceeded one hundred days of refusing food in protest of his administration detention orders which have been continuously renewed since his last arrest in May 2013, according to al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper. Tbeisheh has spent a total of eleven years in Israeli jails, including nearly five years under administrative detention.

According to Addameer, Tbeisheh first began to refuse food on 22 May 2013, immediately after his four-month administrative detention order was confirmed in a military court. He suspended his strike after 105 days, when he thought he reached a deal with the IPS. But this was soon broken as his order was again renewed, despite his deteriorated health.

Ayman Tbeisheh told Palestinian lawyer Ibrahim Al-Araj, who managed to visit him during his previous hunger strike, “I will continue this open hunger strike until I put an end to the ghost of administrative detention that keeps chasing me.”

Soon after he regained some of his physical strength, he re-launched his hunger strike on 24 February 2014. Tbeisheh has since been placed in Assaf Harofe Medical Center where he lays shacked to a hospital bed that may become his deathbed at any moment.

Ayman’s condition is no different than the rest of administrative detainees whose hunger for freedom and dignity drove them to launch the mass hunger strike that has been continuing for 51 days. Eighty hunger strikers have been hospitalized as a result of their ongoing hunger strike, but they persevere in this battle for dignity.

Despite their weak bodies that are drained of energy, their hands and feet are shacked to their hospital beds. They are threatened with force-feeding on a daily basis, an inhumane and dangerous practice that Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is close to setting into law.

Death penalty

My father, who spent a total of fifteen years in Israeli jails, calls force-feeding “a death penalty.” He participated in the Nafha prison mass hunger strike in 1980 which lasted for 33 days. He was subjected to force-feeding and thankfully survived. But his comrades Rasem Halawa from Jabalia refugee camp and Ali al-Jaafary from Dheisheh camp were victims of this murderous practice that aimed to break their hunger strike, and were killed after being subjected to force-feeding.

The Israel Prison Service escalates its oppression of the hunger strikers as their health constantly deteriorates. They put them in windowless isolation cells, keep their hands and legs shackled for tens of hours, deny them family and lawyer visits, and they even deny them an access to salt, which is necessary for their survival.

The strikers are committed to “hunger until either victory or martyrdom,” the same as Khader AdnanHana al-ShalabiMahmoud SarsakSamer Issawi and other ex-detainees who freed themselves after heroic battles of hunger strike against the IPS.

Prisoners’ letter

A smuggled letter from Israeli jails written by the administrative detainees who are on hunger strike. (QudsNetwork)

Below is my translation of a letter our administrative detainees managed to smuggle on 8 June to call upon humanity and people of conscience for popular and international support of their battle for justice. The ex-detainee Allam Kaaby read it during a press conference in front of the sit-in tent erected in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza in solidarity with our Palestinian prisoners’ open-ended mass hunger strike:

Despite the chains and the prisons’ bars and walls, this is a will from those who are standing at the edge of death to the guards of our homeland, Palestine.

After leaving the isolation cells which are no longer able to tolerate our pains, illnesses and corroded bodies, from our hospital beds to which we are shackled by chains and guard dogs, from amidst the jailers who keep watching our heart monitors that may announce our death any moment, from the edge of death, we send our call which could be the last for some of us. It might be the time to announce our will before we embrace our people as dignified martyrs. Our call is our voice, our scream, our will. We are the administrative detainees who are heading towards immortality, towards embracing the sun of dignity which might mark at the same time, the end of the battle for dignity. We raise our voice, hoping that it will reach our revolutionary people.

First, we call upon you to intensify your support of the hunger strikers who are not yet martyred; the fighters who fight our fascist enemy with their bodies deserve from you a stand of loyalty that prevents the continuation of our bloodshed which will never stop until the achievement of our just demands.

Second, the pains of hunger damaged some of our organs but some organs must be still in tact. As death is waiting for us, we declare that nothing will stand in the way of our sacrifices, even death. Therefore, we donate our functioning organs to the fighters, poor and oppressed people who are in need. We are waiting a visit from the International Committee of The Red Cross to endorse these donations.

Third, we call on you to stay faithful to our blood and the blood of all martyrs who sacrificed their souls over the course of our Palestinian struggle. Faithfulness is not just through words, but through revolutionary practice that knows no hesitance nor weakness.

Fourth, hold on to our historical and legitimate rights and never give up an inch of Palestine, from the river to the sea. The right to return is the bridge to our historic rights. These rights cannot be restored without resistance, which is the only language that our enemy understands.

Fifth, don’t fail prisoners who remain alive after us, as those who sacrifice their freedom as a price for their people’s freedom deserve freedom rather than death.

To our dignified people in Palestine and diaspora, to the free people and freedom fighters worldwide, we will let our screams be heard despite the darkness of Israeli jails, which are graves for the living. To people of dead conscience worldwide, our Palestinian people will continue the struggle until victory. We bid farewell with smiling faces.

Reading their words which embrace pain and disappointment must make us all ashamed as we watch them die slowly. Changing our profile pictures to a picture that shows solidarity with their battle for dignity cannot do them much help. We have to move beyond superficial solidarity to serious actions that will bring meaningful change to them. Act before we count more martyrs among Palestinian heroes behind Israeli bars. Their death would be our shame.

Free Nestora Salgado!

The Anti-Oppression Forum is really excited to be getting involved in this campaign to free Nestora Salgado, a community organizer imprisoned in Mexico for standing up to politically powerful drug cartels. The following statement on Salgado’s story was written by the Freedom Socialist Party. You can sign the petition to free Nestora at this link

Nestora Salgado is a naturalized U.S. citizen who grew up in the small indigenous village of Olinalá in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. She moved to the United States in 1991 at the age of 20, working as a maid, nanny and waitress. She splits her time between Olinalá and Renton, Washington, where she lives with her husband José Luis Avila, a construction worker, her daughters, and grandchildren. Over the past four years, she made numerous trips to deliver clothing and supplies to the desperately poor residents of her hometown.

Fighting poverty and violence in Guerrero. Guerrero has the highest murder rate in Mexico and a history of state involvement in massacres of indigenous peasants. During her trips home to Mexico, Salgado witnessed increasing poverty and the rise in violent crime and political corruption. This led her to become a community activist for the human rights of indigenous people in Guerrero and neighboring parts of Mexico. In particular, she became involved in the indigenous movement for community policing that has swept through the region during the past several years. Guerrero State Law 701 and Article 2.A of the Mexican Constitution guarantee the right of indigenous people to self-government and self-defense, including forming their own police forces.

Soon, Salgado was putting the laws into practice by organizing with others to form a community police force in Olinalá. Its officers formed patrols to defend residents against organized crime, particularly the Los Rojos gang. The gang had been terrorizing the community and operating with impunity due to the complicity of local officials, including the mayor.

The impetus for forming the community force was the murder of a local taxi cab driver who refused to pay protection money to Los Rojos. Salgado led a mobilization of village residents to drive the gang out of town and set up checkpoints to keep them from coming back. Last spring Salgado was elected “comandante” or coordinator. She has worked hard to develop the leadership of indigenous women and to empower them to stand up against domestic violence and child abuse.

Initially, Salgado was able to obtain the support of Angel Aguirre, the governor of Guerrero, who promised in writing to provide the force with uniforms, small arms, training and other support. The impact of the community policing, which relied on traditional means of accountability and social control, was dramatic—a 90% drop in the crime rate and no murders during the 10 months that it was in operation. (In the two months since the governor shut down community police, crime has increased and there were four killings, despite the presence of over a thousand marines and soldiers as well as state and federal police. Government forces harass community organizers, sometimes threatening to kill them, while protecting criminal activity.)

Nestora Salgado’s abduction and arrest. The official pretext for seizing her on August 21, 2013, was the arrest of several teenage girls for dealing drugs and the local sheriff, Armando Patrón Jiménez, for tampering with evidence at the crime scene of a double assassination where he attempted to walk off with a cow, the property of the deceased. She is falsely charged with kidnapping both the sheriff and the girls.

At a meeting five days before her arrest between the mayor and Salgado, she refused to let the sheriff, a political crony of the mayor, go free without trial by a peoples’ court. A few days later, she found herself transported by private plane to a maximum security prison 2000 miles from Olinalá. The arrest appears to be in retaliation for a press release Salgado issued that outlined the mayor’s and other government figures’ ties to drug trafficking.

Prosecuting indigenous leaders like Salgado and suppressing autonomous community police forces also serves a larger purpose—silencing vocal opposition by indigenous communities to foreign mining companies that have large contracts to extract mineral wealth from the mountains of Guerrero.

Political persecution and mistreatment in jail. Salgado was seized without an arrest warrant by federal soldiers at a checkpoint while driving home. She had been harassed with death threats by marines for several days prior to her arrest. Since the day after her arrest, Nestora Salgado has been incarcerated in the high security detention center of El Rincon, in Tepic, Nayarit, several days travel from Olinalá. There is no basis for the government’s claim that such extreme measures are warranted because Salgado—a grandmother and well-respected citizen with no criminal record—is a danger to society. Furthermore, kidnapping is not a federal crime in Mexico and those accused are normally held in local jails.

Isolating Salgado from her supporters and family by transporting her so far away, without legal justification, is evidence that she is a political prisoner. Efforts to organize support in Olinalá for Salgado’s release and the revival of community policing are being suppressed by death threats and reprisals; Salgado’s advocates are being cut-off from public assistance, especially needed since a severe storm in mid-October.

For weeks, Salgado was held incommunicado. She was not allowed to see her attorney or family members, who had traveled the long distance to get to the penitentiary. She was only allowed a lawyer after the deadline had passed to petition for release while awaiting trial. Only one of her daughters and a sister has been able to visit her. This persecution is all for performing her lawful duties as the coordinator of the community police force.

Several years ago, Salgado was injured in a car accident that left her temporarily paralyzed from the neck down. Through extensive physical therapy, she was able to regain 90% of her functioning but is still unable to work. To manage severe neuropathy in her hands and feet, she relies on pain medication and frequent exercise. In prison, she has been denied both, worsening her physical and mental condition. Now she is being threatened with solitary confinement.

The recent assassination of another strong woman activist in Guerrero, Rocío Mesino Mesino, is a reminder that Salgado’s life is in jeopardy without close public scrutiny and strong support in Mexico and the United States.

UPDATE (December 4, 2013)

Read a letter to U.N. Secretary Miguel de la Lama requesting her release and a statement of facts related to her case.

Read the misleading AP article which incorrectly states that Nestora led a “vigilante” police force, and Guerry Hodderson and Fred Hyde’s corresponding letters to the editor.

You can help Nestora by clicking here to sign the petition demanding that President Obama secure her release.

Find information on demonstrations to be held on December 10, 2013 at U.S. Mexican Consulates at these locations.

ENDORSING ORGANIZATIONS

Alianza Puertorriqueña, Los Angeles
Ángeles Sin Fronteras, Hugo Castro, Internacional Coordinator, San Diego
Anti-Oppression Forum, Poughkeepsie, New York
Bread is Rising Poetry Collective, New York City
Coalición Humanitaria Internacional Pro Migrante, Southern California & Mexico
Comité Por La Reagrupación Internacional Revolucionaria
Far North Queensland Deaths in Custody Watch Group, Cairns, Australia
Free Marissa Now, U.S.
Freedom Socialist Party, U.S. & Australia
Frente de Resistencia por México, Los Angeles
Feminist Resistance, New York City
Indigenous Social Justice Association, Sydney, Australia
International Action Center, U.S.
International Artivism Collective—US, México, Guatemala, Dominican Republic
International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
International Socialist Organization, New York City
Izquierda Revolucionaria, New York City
Jobs with Justice, Portland, Oregon Chapter
La Voz Latina, WBAI-99.5 FM, New York City
La Zenka and Associated Indigenous Movements, New York City
Latin-American and Latino/a Studies Department, City College of San Francisco
National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles Chapter
Núcleo por un Partido Revolucionario Internacionalista, Dominican Republic
Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS), Seattle
Partido Socialista-Frente Amplio, U.S.
Partido Obrero Socialista, Mexico
People’s Organization for Progress, Newark
Radical Women, U.S. & Australia
Socialist Core, New York City
Stop the Checkpoints, Port Angeles, Washington
Trabajadoras por la Paz, New York City
United American Indians of New England
United Front for Justice and Dignity, California
Washington Federation of State Employees, Local 304, Seattle
Witness for Peace Northwest, Portland, Oregon
Workers World Party, U.S
YoSoy132 Nueva York, New York City