The trial for the two Palestinians implicated in the 15 April kidnapping and murder of the Italian journalist and activist should begin on 8September 2011.
In recent days we have truly felt the loss of Vittorio Arrigoni. The man we loved to call “Vik” spoiled us with accurate real time information on what was happening in Gaza, without neglecting the smallest of details. His contribution would have been invaluable during these hours that the Gaza Strip is reliving the fear of Israeli bombing, “targeted” attacks which are not really so targeted and tanks ready to engage in devastating raids deep into the strip of Palestinian land which always ends up paying for everyone. Even now Vik could have told us much, but young assassins allegedly from the Salafist group “Tawhid Wal Jihad” – apparently wanting to establish themselves as an armed group by means of the important kidnapping last 15April, ripped Vittorio away from his family and friends and to many others in Italy (and not only Italy) who followed his daily updates about the plight of Gaza.
Did things really go as they seem? There are many unresolved mysteries and few certainties. In any case, the hypothesis that Vittorio’s murder was directed by external forces is not to be discarded. Perhaps we will finally know more on 8 September when the first hearing shall take place for at least one of the assassins. For the moment, this hypothesis is only an indiscretion passed along to Il Manifesto (Italian newspaper) by a well informed Gazan journalist with good sources of information within the Hamas government who has requested anonymity. Caution is obligatory in light of the reticent behaviour bordering on ambiguity shown by the Islamic movement since 15 April, when Vik was killed. This comportment has not changed despite the assurances offered on many occasions to Vittorio’s family by the foreign secretary of the Hamas government, Ghazi Hazad.
The government of Gaza has yet to make an official announcement about the inquiries made over the last months and through their representatives have advanced rather vague hypotheses to Il Manifesto about the organizers and those that carried out Vik’s murder. Not only that, but our source added that on 11 August a preliminary hearing of the trial was held. And just two months ago, the Hamas government refused to share their files containing the results of the investigations done over the last months with the lawyers of Vittorio’s parents.
The investigation implemented by the military prosecutors in Gaza was closed in the second half of June and the files were delivered to the military judges that subsequently decided to put two Palestinians (presently in jail) involved in the homicide to trial (two others were killed in a shootout with special Hamas troops immediately after Vik’s assassination). It is clear that the trial and the publication of the minutes of the interrogations of the accused will have exceptional weight in understanding the reasons of the assassination of Vittorio, who was held in high esteem among Gazans. Unfortunately, however, the Gazan authorities have refused to release those files so far because Vik’s mother and father signed an imperfect power of attorney on behalf of the Centre for Palestinian Human Rights of Gaza. According to the military judges in Gaza, the Arabic translation of the power of attorney should have been done by the Palestinian Delegation in Italy, with the proper stamp affixed, in addition to another stamp from the Italian Foreign Office.
Over the last weeks, the lawyers of the Arrigoni family in Italy have been working hard to meet the demands of Gaza and the stamps required by Hamas for the delivery of the files. The hope is to get them to Gaza before the opening of the trial. But the obstacles to overcome are still many, beginning with the heavy restrictive Israeli measures that limit the ability of Gaza residents to receive mail from another country (for important documents it is required to use a courier). Additionally, it is uncertain whether or not there will be an open door trial with access permitted to the foreign press.
This article was originally published on 23 August 2011 in the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto.