Israel to free Palestinian detainee as prisoners launch mass hunger strike
The expected release of Palestinian Khader Adnan after four months in Israeli custody without charge or trial coincides with a mass prisoner hunger strike which Amnesty International says demonstrates anger over administrative detention and prison conditions. Adnan, a 34-year old baker allegedly linked to Islamic Jihad, is due to be released in a deal between his lawyers and the Israeli authorities in February in which he agreed to end his 66-day hunger strike protesting at his administrative detention and ill-treatment. He had been held since December 2011.On Tuesday more than a thousand prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day and protest against the practice of administrative detention, denial of family visits, and conditions of detention. “Without revealing evidence to justify holding him, the Israeli authorities continued to hold Khader Adnan after he agreed to end his hunger strike, forcing him to languish longer in detention without charge or trial while his life was in danger,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. “The Israeli authorities must cease the practice of holding individuals in administrative detention, and ensure Palestinians in their custody are not subjected to ill-treatment and have access to adequate medical care when needed.”Adnan’s action inspired Hana Shalabi, 30, who went on a 43-day hunger strike in protest at her own administrative detention and ill-treatment by Israeli authorities.On 1 April, the Israeli military authorities released her to the Gaza Strip in a deal reached with her lawyer, who represents the Palestinian Prisoner Society. Amnesty International remains concerned that Shalabi’s transfer to the Gaza Strip may have amounted to a forcible transfer or deportation. She has no possibility of returning home to the occupied West Bank for at least three years.In the meantime dozens of other Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees had also begun hunger strikes, many of which were called off when Shalabi was released. Before today’s mass protest, eight Palestinians remained on hunger strike to protest their administrative detention, four of whom are currently held in Ramleh Prison Hospital due to their poor health conditions. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, only two – Bilal Diab, 27, and Tha’er Halahleh, 34, both on hunger strike since 1 March – have been allowed access to independent doctors once after a legal appeal by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and none has been allowed visits by independent lawyers or their families. “We remain very concerned about reports that detainees have been denied access to independent doctors, and that some have been punished because of their decision to go on hunger strike – including by being placed in isolation, fined, or otherwise ill-treated by Israel Prison Services officers,” said Ann Harrison.The Palestinian hunger strikers are asking for an end to solitary confinement, for all prisoners and detainees to be allowed family visits. Since June 2007 such visits have been banned for prisoners and detainees from the Gaza Strip in violation of international law. More than 320 Palestinians, including some 24 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, are currently being held in administrative detention. The number held has been rising steadily in recent months.