Palestinian Prisoner Samer Issawi Enters 221 Day Hunger Strike, Held On No Charges

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    An Israeli prison guard escorts Samer Issawi, a Palestinian political prisoner, out of his court hearing in Jerusalem's civil court, Jan. 16, 2013. (Photo/OrenZiv)

    An Israeli prison guard escorts Samer Issawi, a Palestinian political prisoner, out of his court hearing in Jerusalem’s civil court, Jan. 16, 2013. (Photo/OrenZiv)

    Update February 26, 2013:  Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Samer Issawi’s brother Fadi, who was shot and killed by Israeli forces during a nonviolent protest in their hometown of Issawiya.

    Shireen posted a picture on the Free Samer Issawi Campaign Facebook page showing  Samer laying a wreath on the 19th anniversary of Fadi’s death last year.  She says he is still in very grave condition in Ramle prison and his lawyers have no access to their client. Shireen herself was detained by Israeli police for two hours late last week amid ongoing demonstrations for the release of Samer and three other Palestinian prisoners who are on hunger strike.

    UPDATE: Haithem El-Zabri of the Free Samer Issawi Campaign says that even if he is released, he will have to face trial in the Ofer court. El-Zabri said on Friday that almost 1,000 supporters from 28 countries are taking part in a global solidarity fast starting at 8 p.m. in their local time zone. Another mass hunger strike is taking place in several Israeli prisons.

    Shireen Issawi says there will be a court hearing on Sunday and they hope it means Israel will release him.

    UPDATE: Samer Issawi’s sister, Shireen, tells MPN he will remain in the Ramle hospital and will continue his hunger strike in continued protest of the Ofer military court’s ongoing hearing and determination to have him serve the remainder of the 20 years to which he was originally sentenced.

    (MintPress) – There is still a chance that Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi could be released on bail this week. His sister, Shireen, tells Mint Press News that the Jerusalem Magistrates Court has called another hearing on his case for Thursday, although no reason was given.

    At a hearing on Tuesday, the court denied bail and ruled that Issawi would be detained until his next court appearance on March 14.

    The 33-year-old has been on hunger strike for more than 200 days and is gravely ill. He was transferred from solitary confinement to the hospital last month.

    “The judge saw him in critical condition, he saw his bones, he saw he couldn’t speak and he decided he had to stay in prison,” Shireen said angrily.

    “No human being can see a person facing death and say it’s OK, you will stay in prison. These judges are monsters.”

    Issawi has been held captive since July 7, 2012, when he was arrested for allegedly violating the terms of his parole, which stipulated that he could not leave Jerusalem.

    He was part of an October 2011 release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, many arrested for military activity, in exchange for an Israeli soldier held by Hamas.

    Issawi has been on hunger strike since July 29, 2012, to protest  Israel’s policy of administrative detention, which allows it to hold prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial.

    The deterioration of his health has led to widespread demonstrations both in Israel and countries worldwide. Thousands of protesters took to the streets once again after Tuesday’s ruling, clashing with Israeli soldiers at rallies in the West Bank. Shireen says two protesters are still under arrest.


    Family tragedy

    Meanwhile, Issawi’s mother has recovered after collapsing in the courtroom on Tuesday and being rushed to hospital for treatment.

    “You can imagine a mother seeing her dying son in front of her and she can’t do anything,” Shireen said. “She became unconscious, but now she is doing better.”

    She will need her strength for her other son as well. Early Monday morning, Israeli police came to the family’s home and took away Samer’s younger brother, Shadi.

    “The neighbors told us they saw him get in a police car, and that’s how we know he is under arrest,” Shireen said, adding that Shadi was in a separate court on Tuesday, but she does not yet know his fate.


    International appeals

    There has been increasing pressure on Israel in recent weeks to release the older Issawi son on bail.

    On Feb. 12, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called on the international community to intervene in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

    “Things may get out of control if the lives of the hunger strikers are not saved,” he said on Palestinian television.

    “We ask the international community to respond effectively to ease the situation, otherwise it will be impossible to control and it will deteriorate across the Palestinian territories.”

    Abbas also sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to condemn the health and living conditions for the hunger strikers and to demand their release.

    Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “Persons detained must be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees in accordance with international standards, or be promptly released.”

    In the meantime, Shireen says her brother will continue his hunger strike. Samer’s lawyers told the family that on Tuesday “when he heard the decision, he smiled.”

    “He is strong,” she continued. “The decision didn’t affect his spiritual strength.”

    See Mint Press’s original coverage of Samer Issawi’s hunger strike here and more coverage from January 2013 here. 

    To support Samer, you may visit The Free Samer Issawi Campaign’s Facebook page.


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