Two Palestinians end hunger strike after promised release

Published Monday, September 24, 2012

Two Palestinians detained in Israeli jails have halted their hunger strikes after being promised a speedy release, officials from the Palestinian Prisoners Society and Israeli prison officials said Sunday.

Society lawyer Jawad Bulus said he visited Samer Barq and Hassan Safadi, confirming that both were beginning to take food. Israeli Prison Service spokesperson Sivan Weizman also said the two prisoners had ended their strike.

Barq has spent 125 days on hunger strike. He remains in Israeli civilian hospital Assaf Harofeh and will soon be transferred to Ramleh prison clinic, Bulus said.

Barq ended his strike after learning Egypt and Israel had agreed that he would be transferred from jail into exile in Egypt, Bulus said.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prisoners Minister Issa Qaraqe said Barq would be freed within hours on Thursday, but Weizman denied his release was imminent.

Head of the Prisoners Society Qaddura Fares said both Israel and Egypt claimed they were waiting for the other side to confirm the final date and transit point in order to implement the deal.

Barq told Bulus if he is not freed to Egypt shortly he will resume his hunger strike and additionally refuse to take any liquids.

Another hunger striker, Hassan Safadi, has been returned to Ramleh prison clinic after he ended his strike due to Israel's assurance he will be freed at the end of his current administrative detention term on October 29, Bulus said.

Safadi has been on hunger strike for 95 days, and on Thursday prisoners group Addameer said he had refused to drink water for three days.

The Prisoners Society has also appealed to the Israeli High Court asking for Safadi to be released immediately.

Amnesty International said last month that Safadi and Barq had refused food since May 22 and June 21 respectively to protest a policy Israel calls "administrative detention."

Administrative detention orders are issued without trial or conviction by a military court, and can be renewed indefinitely for periods of six months.

Barq was transferred to intensive care earlier this month, and the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement warning that he, Safadi and a third fasting prisoner, Ayman Sharawneh, were close to death.

More than 2,000 Palestinian prisoners, including Safadi, in May ended a mass hunger strike for better conditions in a deal with prison authorities.

One of the terms of the accord was that those held without trial in administrative detention would go free at the end of their current terms, unless fresh evidence emerged against them.

Safadi went back on hunger strike after Israel violated the terms of the deal and renewed his detention order.

A coalition of rights groups that include Addameer, Al-Haq and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, have been closely monitoring the issue.

While refusing food, the groups say that the prisoners have been subjected to severe physical and psychological abuse by Israeli prison guards and were, for at some period of time, held in solitary confinement in Israel's Ramleh prison.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have slammed the policy of administrative detention as a violation of international humanitarian law.

Fares said two Palestinians remain on long-term hunger strike, Ayman Sharawna who has refused food since July 1, and Samer Issawi, since August 1.

(Al-Akhbar, Ma'an, AFP)

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