100s Of Palestinians Join Prisoner Hunger Strike As Samer Issawi Reaches 211 Days
(MintPress) – As Mint Press News previously reported, Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi has been on a hunger strike in Ramla Prison in Israel since July 29, 2012, protesting Israel’s policy of “administrative detention,” which allows authorities to detain Palestinians without charge or trial indefinitely. Now in a move of solidarity, hundreds of Palestinian inmates held in Israeli custody have decided to refuse food for one day on Tuesday to highlight the injustice of Israel’s administrative detention program.
According to Haaretz, “Israel holds some Palestinians in “administrative detention” based on evidence presented in a closed military court. It says the practice pre-empts militant attacks against it while keeping its counter-intelligence sources and tactics secret.”
While Issawi’s story slowly gains momentum in the press, with his rapidly deteriorating health and his decision to begin refusing water, there are three other imprisoned Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike as well: Tariq Qaadan, Jafar Ezzedine and Ayman Sharawna.
“The battle waged by me and by my heroic colleagues … is everyone’s battle, the battle of the Palestinian people against the occupation and its prisons,” Issawi said in a message conveyed to the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners last week.
According to Amani Srahna of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, which looks after the welfare of inmates and their families, about 800 inmates in three prisons were participating in the one-day protest. Those outside of the prison walls also displayed their support for the prisoners by staging protests near the prison walls and demanding the release of the four prisoners on a hunger strike.
Historically, Israel has defused long-term hunger strikes among the some 4,700 Palestinians in its jails by agreeing to release individuals or deporting them to Gaza, but the four protesters reject this “solution” since they are from Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Though the solidarity hunger strike is expected to only last one day, the prisoners’ campaign for better conditions and against detention without trial, has led to several protests in the past few years. For example, last year there were several hunger strikes as Palestinians sought concessions from Israel, and they were somewhat successful.
In May 2012, about 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners fasted for about a month, some for two months, hoping to bring attention to the unjust imprisonment of Palestinian activists. According to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, the Israel Prison Service and Israeli intelligence officers agreed to five main provisions with help from Egypt:
- the prisoners would end their hunger strike following the signing of the agreement;
- There will be an end to the use of long-term isolation of prisoners for “security” reasons, and the 19 prisoners will be moved out of isolation within 72 hours;
- Family visits for first degree relatives to prisoners from the Gaza Strip and for families from the West Bank who have been denied visit based on vague “security reasons” will be reinstated within one month;
- The Israeli intelligence agency guarantees that there will be a committee formed to facilitate meetings between the IPS and prisoners in order to improve their daily conditions;
- There will be no new administrative detention orders or renewals of administrative detention orders for the 308 Palestinians currently in administrative detention, unless the secret files, upon which administrative detention is based, contains “very serious” information.
Unfortunately for the Palestinians, it doesn’t seem like the Israeli officials are willing to budge this time. Issawi alone has appeared in court three times hoping to be released on bail. The first two times his request was rejected, and most recently on Tuesday, a Jerusalem civil court deferred releasing Issawi for at least another month.
The Middle East Quartet, which is comprised of the U.S., Russia, the U.N. and the EU have all expressed concern regarding the hunger strike and what may happen if one of the prisoners dies before being released, since Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the Palestinians would hold Israel “fully responsible” if one of them died.
The U.N. and EU have made public statements encouraging Israel to release the prisoners and end the administrative detention program, but the U.S. has remained silent.
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