Rally marks year since Jewish-Palestinian theater director’s murder

Demonstrators gathered in central Ramallah on Wednesday to mark a year since the murder of Israeli-Palestinian theater director Juliano Mer-Khamis, an AFP correspondent said.

Around 100 people gathered outside the Muqataa presidential compound to remember 52-year-old Mer-Khamis, who was shot dead on 4 April 2011 by an unknown gunman as he drove through Jenin refugee camp not far from the Freedom Theatre which he directed.

Most of the demonstrators were Arab Israelis, although there were several foreigners among them, holding up pictures of the slain activist alongside banners reading: "You can take my life but you can't take my soul."

Others wore T-shirts bearing his image with the slogan: "Who shut me up?" in reference to the assassin, who was never caught.

Maxwell Gaylard, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, issued a statement remembering Mer-Khamis as "a visionary and courageous peacemaker and a champion of culture and freedom of expression."

He also called upon "all concerned authorities to intensify the efforts to bring his murderers to justice."

Palestinian police have yet to make any arrests in connection with his murder. A local man was briefly detained in the wake of the shooting, but he was released shortly afterwards.

An Israeli citizen, Mer-Khamis was born to a Jewish mother, Arna Mer, and a Palestinian Christian father, Saliba Khamis, and was known for both his acting and directing as well as his political activism.

He had lived in Jenin camp for seven years, and refused to describe himself as an Arab Israeli, telling Israel's army radio in 2009: "I am 100 percent Palestinian and 100 percent Jewish."

The theatre was established in 1987 by Mer-Khamis's mother who wanted to create a space where the children of Jenin could escape violence, before the first intifada broke out several months later.

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