Israel rejects appeal to release hunger-striker Issawi: minister

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Israeli soldiers and border police harass protesters calling for the release of Palesintian prisoner Samer Issawi on 8 April 2013 near the West Bank city of Hebron. (Photo: AFP - Hazem Bader)

Published Saturday, April 13, 2013

Israel has rejected appeals to release long-term hunger striker Samer Issawi to the West Bank, Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqe told AFP on Saturday.

Qaraqe said that Israeli officials told him on Saturday that Samer Issawi, who has been refusing food for over 260 days, "is in critical condition and might die at any moment."

Issawi, 33, was first arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for organizing with the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

He was released by Israel under a prisoner swap in October 2011, but rearrested last July for violating the terms of the agreement by travelling to the Israeli-occupied West Bank from East Jerusalem.

An Israeli official charged on Friday that Issawi had gone to the West Bank to establish "terror cells."

Israel has ordered that he serve the remainder of his original sentence.

Issawi's health has deteriorated because of his prolonged fast, and he was being held in an Israeli hospital. The Israeli official said he could "immediately be released to Gaza."

Qaraqe said that the Palestinians had requested that he be released temporarily to the West Bank.

"We proposed that they release him to Ramallah for a while and they refused," he said.

"We agreed to send him to Europe for a few months to receive medical treatment and then come back again but they refused."

The Israeli official said on Friday that Israel had told the European Union and the United Nations that it was willing to free Issawi and deport him overseas but his lawyer said his client strongly rejected the proposal.

An EU spokesman said no "official" proposal had been received.

Issawi is the last of four Palestinian prisoners who were on extended hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, after two ended their fast in February and a third was exiled from the West Bank last month to the Gaza Strip for 10 years.

(AFP)

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