The PLO has called for the unconditional release of a Palestinian journalist in Israeli custody whose 62-day hunger strike has brought him close to death ahead of an appeal by the prisoner’s lawyers before Israel’s Supreme Court this week.
Muhammad al-Qiq, a 33-year-old journalist from the southern West Bank town of Dura, went on hunger strike on Nov. 24, 2015 to protest his administrative detention — interment without charge or trial in Israeli prison.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement Monday that Israel must release him immediately, condemning the “unlawful practice of administrative detention” as well as “severe and unjust acts of torture” committed by Israel’s prison authorities.
Ashrawi said the executive committee supported al-Qiq as well as all other Palestinian prisoners who have launched strikes against their detention.
“They embody a selfless struggle for justice and independence in Palestine, and expose the brutality and criminality of the continued military occupation, particularly in relation to the thousands of Palestinian men, women and children prisoners in Israeli jails,” she said.
The Israeli Supreme Court is set to hear an appeal for al-Qiq’s release on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., the Palestinian Authority’s Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs said.
The journalist’s lawyers will speak out against his administrative detention, under which hundreds of Palestinian political detainees are currently being held.
The committee warned that any further deterioration of al-Qiq’s health or his potential death could have far-reaching consequences for Israel politically, including popular unrest among Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
The committees’ head, Issa Qaraqe, warned again Tuesday that Israel’s prison authorities may still take the decision to force-feed al-Qiq, in what would be the first use of the controversial practice since it was approved by Israeli lawmakers last year.
A lawyer for the committee, Ashraf Abu Sneina, told Ma’an on Monday after visiting al-Qiq that the journalist was unconscious and unable to speak, adding that he had exhibited “sudden symptoms that could lead to his death.”
Initially detained on Nov. 21, 2015, an Israeli military judge confirmed al-Qiq’s administrative detention on Dec. 30, 2015, and an appeal filed against his detention was rejected by the Ofer Military Court on Jan. 17.
While the Israeli authorities have suggested that al-Qiq is being held “incitement,” working with Hamas-affiliated media, and being a “threat to security,” Amnesty International said last week that withholding al-Qiq on secret evidence was unlawful.
An investigation by the rights group also revealed that al-Qiq had been mistreated and tortured during his administrative detention.
Physicians for Human Rights Israel reported that doctors in the hospital where al-Qiq is being held had “forced” medical treatment on the prisoner.
They said the action did not amount to force-feeding but was still a violation of international law.
Some 45 Palestinian prisoners affiliated to the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) being held in the Megiddo and Gilboa prisons meanwhile began a two-day strike Tuesday in an act of solidarity with al-Qiq.
The Handala Center for Palestinian Prisoners and Former Prisoners said that the 45 prisoners launched the strike in ab attempt to apply pressure on Israel to release al-Qiq, as well as the end to the solitary confinement of prisoner Bilal Kayid.
Kayyid, who has spent over 14 years in Israeli prison, is being held in a “putrid cell without ventilation, light or proper winter blankets,” the prisoners’ center said.
It added that Kayid was recently transferred from Mediggo prison to solitary confinement in Ashkelon prison where he has been denied sleep and family visits.
Palestinian prisoners of Israel frequently stage hunger strikes against poor prison conditions and the conditions of their detention, with several detainees coming close to death before reaching eventual deals with the Israeli authorities.