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Palestinian Hamas figure interviewed on BBC reporter’s release

BBC Monitoring

Text of report by Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 4 July

    [Interview with Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the deposed Palestinian prime minister, via satellite from Gaza, by Hasan Jammul in the studio - live]

    [Jammul] Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the deposed Palestinian prime minister, joins us from Gaza now. Mr Hamad, on what basis was Alan Johnston released?

    [Hamad] In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. The release of Alan Johnston crowned long and arduous efforts, which took the form of meetings, negotiations, and dialogues. These were followed by giving signals of a more decisive action in which other means would be used to secure his release. Eventually, the Army of Islam was convinced that there was no alternative to releasing him. Hamas and the Palestinian government strongly insisted that the file of the journalist should not remain open indefinitely. Therefore, there was insistence, particularly during the last three days, on giving a strong message to the abductors that there would be no more time or room for more dialogue before the kidnapped journalist was released. That is why many journalists and media men saw large Hamas forces deployed in the area where the kidnapped journalist was believed to be held. We wanted to solve the problem peacefully without resorting to force. We thank God that it was resolved in this manner. I repeat that we worked hard day and night until we managed to secure the release of Alan Johnston.

    [Jammul] What was offered in return for the release of Alan Johnston? What happened to the demands the Army of Islam announced and insisted should be met within four months?

    [Hamad] We announced right from the beginning that our basic issue is Palestinian and, therefore, calculations should be national Palestinian ones. We said our main conflict is with occupation. Therefore, any foreign demands would complicate the situation and increase pressure on the Palestinian people. I have personally conducted dialogue and negotiations with the kidnappers and discussed these demands. I was in Britain, where I met with British officials. There was a clear [British] decision not to meet the demands of the abductors, who called for the release of prisoners belonging to Al-Qa'idah. We told them this is unacceptable to us because we insist on concentrating on our conflict with occupation and on the release of Palestinian prisoners. Therefore, they were convinced that there was no room for the release of prisoners from the prisons of Britain or other countries.

    [Jammul] You personally supervised contacts, and so you must have known some details. Who supports the Army of Islam in Gaza?

    [Hamad] The Army of Islam is not a large armed group. It believes in what is close to the Salafi jihadist ideology. It is not a large group. It carried out jihadist and resistance operations against Israel. We appreciate that, but we and the Islamic men of religion believe that the abduction of the British journalist was regrettably against Islam and against our beliefs, values, and ethics. We tried to persuade this group that dependence on such extremist ideas does not stem from Islam or the moderate Islamic concept. We hope that they will modify their positions and the way they view the ideas and concepts of Islam.

    [Jammul] Have you now opened channels of continuous contact with the British Government or contacts were confined to the fate of Alan Johnston?

    [Hamad] All past contacts focused on the abduction of journalist Alan Johnston. We were in daily contact on this issue. Contacts did not expand further. We had hoped that Britain would appreciate the Palestinian Government's efforts to release Alan Johnston by changing its opinion and by deciding that Hamas is not a terrorist movement. I think this should serve as a strong message to Britain, the EU, and the international community that Hamas is not a terrorist movement. It worked for the release of a kidnapped person because it believed that his abduction was incorrect and served no national cause. Consequently, they should be convinced that we are a national movement working for the termination of occupation and not a movement that has any links whatsoever with terrorism.

    [Jammul] Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the deposed Palestinian Prime Minister Isma'il Haniyah, thank you very much.

    Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 0605 gmt 4 Jul 07

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