The Greek Melkite Archbishop, Hilarion Capucci who fought for Palestinian rights and was imprisoned for four years in the 1970s, convicted of arms smuggling, died on 1 January at the age of 94.
Born in Aleppo, Syria, on 2 March 1922, Hilarion Capucci was ordained a priest of the Basilian Alepian Order on 20 July 1947. On 30 July 1965, he was appointed Archbishop of Caesarea in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
On 18 August 1974 he was arrested by Israeli security forces for smuggling weapons into the West Bank in a Mercedes sedan. He was subsequently convicted by an Israeli court of using his diplomatic status to smuggle arms to the Palestine Liberation Army and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Maximos V, the patriarch of the Melkite Church, was a vocal critic of Capucci's imprisonment. He was quoted as saying: "Is this Bishop reprehensible if he thought it was his duty to bear arms? If we go back in history we find other bishops who smuggled weapons, gave their lives and committed other illegal actions to save Jews from Nazi occupation. I do not see why a man who is ready to save Arabs should be condemned." Maximos also asserted that Israel had entered East Jerusalem illegally and against United Nations resolutions.
Archbishop Capucci was released in 1978.
He played a key role during the Iran hostage crisis. The Archbishop made several visits to the hostages, and in early May 1980 he obtained the release of the bodies of the American soldiers who had died in the refueling accident during the rescue mission. Capucci also negotiated an agreement for the release of the hostages, but the plan collapsed because the French press published the story before the agreement had been approved by Iran's Parliament.
An opponent of the Iraq War, Archbishop Capucci wrote the foreword for the book Neo-Conned!: Just War Principles a Condemnation of War in Iraq, by John Sharpe.
In 2009, at the age of 87, Capucci was on a Lebanese ship bound for Gaza which was seized by Israeli forces when the ship attempted to violate the Israeli naval blockade.
In May 2010 the Archbishop participated in Free Gaza Movement's aid flotilla to Gaza. He was a passenger on MV Mavi Marmara, which was seized in the early hours of Monday 31 May by the Israeli Navy, who killed nine people killed and injured many more. He was held in Beersheba prison - the first time he had set foot in Israel for 32 years and deported.
Archbishop Capucci continued to write and speak out for peace and justice in the Middle East until the end of his life. Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian who met Capucci on several occasions, called him "a man of his time."