Israel releases former Palestinian hunger striker
Published Thursday, February 7, 2013
A Palestinian prisoner who last year staged a 120-day hunger strike to protest his detention was freed from an Israeli prison on Thursday and returned to his home in the Gaza Strip.
Akram al-Rikhawi was shown on Palestinian television being welcomed by a large crowd of well wishers as he crossed into Gaza after close to nine years in jail.
Israel convicted Rikhawi in 2004 for being a member of Hamas.
He was due to be freed in June this year, but the West Bank-based Palestinian Prisoners' Club said in July that the Israel Prisons Service agreed to bring forward his release in exchange for his ending the hunger strike.
Amnesty International on Thursday warned that two Palestinians imprisoned without charge since November were suffering deteriorating health after launching hunger strikes shortly after their arrest.
The London-based rights group said that Jaafar Ezzedine and Tareq Qaadan were visited by their lawyer last week in the medical wing of Israel’s notorious Ramleh prison.
"Jaafar and Tariq are taking only water," an Amnesty statement quoted the unnamed lawyer as saying.
"Last week both were taken to a hospital for eight hours and underwent medical checks. I was with them in the hospital and spoke to the doctors who told me their health is in a very critical state."
He added that both men accepted injections of vitamins and other supplements.
Palestinian prisoner support group Adameer says six prisoners held by Israel are currently on hunger strike.
The longest serving are Ayman Sharawneh and Samer Issawi who have been fasting for months to demand their release from imprisonment without trial.
Issawi, who has been without food for 198 days, began refusing water on Tuesday. Sharawneh launched a hunger strike in July 2011, suspended it in December, but resumed it in January over Israeli delays over his release.
Amnesty demanded that Israel either charge or release immediately those interned and end the practice of "administrative detention," under which political prisoners can be imprisoned without trial by order of a military court.
The order can be renewed indefinitely for six months at a time.