The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation welcomes Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s nomination of imprisoned Palestinian leader, Marwan Barghouthi, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Tutu, a Nobel Laureate, this week wrote to the Norway Nobel Committee, nominating the ‘Palestinian Mandela’ for the 2017 award. He called on the committee to “seize this occasion to bring attention back to the question of Palestine and to the calls for a just and lasting peace, a prospect Marwan Barghouthi continues advocating and acting for, despite years of imprisonment and isolation.”

He added that his nomination of Barghouthi “constitutes a clear signal of support for the realisation of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights, including to self-determination.”

The Kathrada Foundation’s Director, Neeshan Balton, said that the nomination by Tutu and fellow Nobel Laureate, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, held significant weight. “When individuals of this calibre make such a call, it not only reiterates the faith that Palestinians and members of the international community have in Barghouthi, but puts Israel’s occupation and the imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians, back in the spotlight.”

Several Nobel Laureates, including Tutu, have supported the international campaign for the release of Barghouthi and all Palestinian political prisoners, launched by anti-apartheid struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada and Barghouthi’s wife, Fadwa, on Robben Island in 2013. Barghouthi was the first Palestinian parliamentarian to be arrested by Israel in 2002 and was sentenced to a lifetime in prison.

His nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize has been supported by Belgian parliamentarians. Furthermore, the Tunisian Quartet, who was granted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015, recently dedicated their award to Barghouthi.

“Irrespective of what Barghouthi has been charged for by the Israeli apartheid state, he is key to Palestinian unity, and to negotiating a peaceful settlement. Mandela was labelled a terrorist and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was however, central to South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. Barghouthi’s release, together with that of all Palestinian political prisoners, will signal Israel’s willingness to negotiate a peaceful settlement,” Balton said.

His views were echoed by Kathrada, who added that Tutu was well-known as being a global “moral compass”. “Comrade Arch, as I call him, has dedicated his life to the principles of peace, justice and reconciliation. Tutu knew, as did most South Africans prior to democracy, that the freedom of Mandela and all political prisoners was the only way to negotiating peace in in the country. So when this ‘moral-compass’ nominates Barghouthi for the highest international accolade, it should be celebrated and supported by all peace loving individuals. Only those who support occupation, injustice and apartheid, would dare to differ.”

Tutu, in his letter, elaborated on Barghouthi’s role a figure of peace in the region: “Marwan Barghouthi has fought for freedom and peace and has formulated the correlation between these two struggles by stating that the last day of this Israeli occupation will be the first day of peace. He has drafted from behind bars the prisoners’ document signed by Palestinian leaders from across the political spectrum, which constitutes till today a basis for the efforts towards national reconciliation enjoying wide national consensus, as well as a political programme to achieve unity, freedom and peace.”

He further noted that Barghouthi was a “defender of democracy and human rights, including women rights, and of pluralism, both religious and political”.

“Comrade Arch has very aptly stated that if Marwan receives the Nobel Peace Prize, it will bring us ‘closer to the day this holy land…can stop being a living testimony of injustice and impunity, occupation and apartheid, and can finally be a beacon of freedom, hope and peace’. I would urge the Nobel Committee to seriously consider these nominations and not be hindered or influenced by those who seek to perpetuate and continue the occupation of Palestine,” Kathrada said.

(Archbishop Tutu’s full letter can be found here.)

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