Last updated: 2 October, 2011

Theatre director Abu Salem dies in West Bank

Francois Abu Salem, a French actor and director and long-time West Bank resident, has died at the age of 60 in the city of Ramallah, Palestinian security forces said.

His body was found on Saturday night in the al-Tira suburb of the Palestinian city, where he lived and worked for many years.

The cause of death was not immediately known, although security sources said that suicide was being investigated as a possibility.

Friends of the director, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said he had been depressed.

Abu Salem was born in 1951 to renowned French poet and surgeon Lorand Gaspar and sculptor Francine Gaspar. He was raised in east Jerusalem, Beirut and France.

A fluent Arabic speaker who decided to take an Arabic surname, Abu Salem was the co-founder of the El-Hakawati Theatre Company, which later grew into the Palestinian National Theatre, in east Jerusalem.

He was best known as a theatre director and also adapted plays by renowned authors including Dario Fo and Bertolt Brecht for a Palestinian audience.

Abu Salem, who also directed movies, received the Palestine Prize for theatre from then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1998.

“It’s a terrible loss for those close to him as well as for theatre in Palestine and as a whole,” his friend Lea Tzemel told AFP.