Lawyer Visits Barghouthi for First Time since Beginning of Hunger Strike

Marwan Barghouti. (Photo: Tamar Fleishman, Palestine Chronicle)

Imprisoned senior Fatah official Marwan Barghouthi was visited by his lawyer on Sunday for the first time since a mass prisoner hunger strike, led by Barghouthi, began 28 days ago.

Lawyer Khader Shqeirat reported that Barghouthi had lost 12 kilograms since the beginning of the strike, and now weighed only 53 kilograms, according to the a statement released by the media committee of the Freedom and Dignity hunger strike, established by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).

Barghouthi described to Shqeirat the abysmal conditions in which he was being held, saying that he was kept in a basement cell for four days, from which he was removed only when he stopped drinking water.

Barghouthi’s current cell is empty of all basic necessities and infested with insects, Shqeirat said, adding that the Fatah leader had only one blanket and did not have access to any books. Barghouthi told his lawyer that he had not been able to change his clothes since the beginning of the hunger strike on April 17.

Barghouthi also complained of “loud sounds emitted for several hours every day,” which have led him to stuff paper tissues in his ears in an effort to muffle the noise.

Barghouthi went on to say that “oppression units” of the Israel Prison Service “ransack his cell four times a day and carry out offensive inspections, including strip searches while his hands and legs are cuffed,” Shqeirat conveyed, adding that Barghouthi was also cuffed whenever he was taken to and from the prison clinic.

Nonetheless, Barghouthi told his lawyer that the estimated 1,300 hunger-striking prisoners were “determined to go on with this battle until it achieves all its goals.”

While a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited Barghouthi on Thursday in his solitary confinement cell in the Gilboa prison, near Nazareth in northern Israel, the international organization had not publicly shared any information about the imprisoned Palestinian leader’s condition.

In a letter reportedly written by Barghouthi and released Sunday, the leader of the mass prisoner hunger strike urged the Palestinian people show more solidarity with the prisoners on the 69th anniversary of the Nakba commemorated on Monday, including through acts of civil disobedience at a national level.

Barghouthi referred to the Nakba, or “catastrophe” — the term used to describe the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 during the establishment of the state of Israel — “ethnic cleansing” and “the ugliest attempt to uproot a people in this era.”

Through undertaking the hunger strike, “prisoners are drawing up a new bright and honorable page of Palestinian heroism and struggle for freedom,” the letter read.

The letter also urged rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah to achieve national reconciliation through dialogue, while issuing a warning to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority against resuming negotiations with Israel “based on the same old rules.”

“Negotiations will be pointless unless Israel is officially committed to ending the occupation within a certain framework, stopping settlement construction completely, withdrawing from the areas occupied in 1967, recognizing the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination that includes the establishment of an independent fully sovereign state based on pre-1967 borders whose capital is the beloved Jerusalem, recognizing the right of return of Palestinian refugees, releasing all prisoners, and stopping the crime of negligence practiced against prisoners during approximately a quarter of a century of negotiations,” the letter stated.

While Shqeirat’s report obtained by Ma’an did not address recent Israeli attempts to discredit Barghouthi, notably through the publication of video footage claiming to show him breaking his strike and eating in his cell, Israeli news outlet Ynet quoted Shqeirat as saying that Barghouthi refuted the veracity of the video, stating that it showed a cell that did not correspond to any in which he had been held since the beginning of the strike.

He has been held in solitary confinement since the start of the strike, as Israeli authorities have continually attempted to discredit Barghouthi in order to dismantle the leadership of the movement and break the steadfastness of the hunger strikers.

The Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have been calling for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention — imprisonment without charge or trial — among other demands for basic rights.

Hunger strikers have been punished by being placed in filthy solitary confinement cells and prevented from seeing relatives and lawyers, as they have also faced physical assault, psychological torture, confiscation of their personal belongings and drinking water, among other humiliating and violent measures since some 1,500 prisoners began refusing meals on April 17.

Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to Palestinian organizations.

According to prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, 40 percent of the male Palestinian population has been detained by Israeli authorities at some point in their lives. Rights groups have long accused Israel of using routine imprisonment as a tool to erode family and political life in the Palestinian territory.

(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out