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Jerusalem teen says he was medically neglected in Israeli prison

Feb. 10, 2017 4:38 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 14, 2017 7:07 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A 17-year-old former prisoner from the Wadi al-Joz neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, who was released this week from Israeli custody after over a year in prison, detailed the account of his detention to Ma’an on Friday, saying he was “on the verge of death” in Israel's Megiddo prison.

Majd Nadir Saida told Ma'an of the day he was detained, Sept. 30, 2015, saying “six undercover Israeli officers attacked me near my house, beating me violently and firing gunshots into the air to prevent anyone from helping me.”

Shortly after, Israeli forces took the teenager -- who was 15 at the time -- to Israel’s “Oz” police station in the Jabal al-Mukabbir neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and then to the Russian Compound interrogation center.

Saida told Ma’an he sustained bruises and cuts on his head, neck, and face, during the violent detention.

The teenager was then taken to Israel’s HaSharon prison before being transferred to Givon prison, a detention center predominately used for migrants and asylum seekers who enter Israel without proper documentation, which also has a wing used to detain Palestinian minors.

"The living conditions in Givon prison were very bad and very hard. I stayed there for two months and the wardens used to storm the prisoners' rooms violently every week for inspection, beating us every time."

He was then moved to Megiddo prison.

Saida told Ma'an his "tragedy" began in April 2016, when he started to feel severe abdominal pains that lasted for a week. "A doctor at Megiddo prison checked me and gave me standard painkillers. However, pains increased day after day and were more severe than I can describe. One day the doctor checked me and asked me to drink a Coke so he can diagnose the cause of pain,” Saida said.

“After I drank the Coke at the doctor's request, I couldn't sleep due to the severe pains and tiredness I felt."

Saida told Ma’an that his pains reached such a severe point that his fellow prisoners shouted at the Israeli guards to bring a doctor, who only came after Saida’s cellmates continued shouting.

The doctor checked Saida through a small window in the room's door without opening the door.

"He just took my temperature and asked me to drink water."

An hour later wardens moved him to another room with older prisoners. "The next day I was taken to Afula prison hospital in a police vehicle. Both my hands and feet were cuffed."

Doctors decided that Saida urgently needed surgery on his appendix, saying that it had been left untreated and was perforated, “spilling poisonous and infectious material into the abdomen.”

"I stayed 22 days in the hospital with both my hands and feet tied. Whenever I needed to go to the toilet, I had to wait half an hour until they obtained approval from the prison manager,” Saida said, pointing out that he also needed approval to take a shower, a process that would take about one hour and required the presence of an officer inside the room while he showered, and another outside.

Saida said suffered from severe weight loss and weighed only 37 kilograms (81 pounds) after his stay in the hospital.

His father Nadir told Ma’an that a doctor from the Afula hospital called him for permission to operate on his son, which was the first time he learned that his son was sick in the first place.

“I asked to go to the hospital myself, but the doctor told me that if I don't approve the surgery I would see my son as a dead body, so I approved the surgery on the phone,” Nidal said.

Saida's mother and uncle were able to visit him after the surgery and stay with him for an hour, his father said, highlighting that the two had to wait for hours before being allowed to see the boy.

"I visited him three times at Afula hospital, once every week, " Saida’s mother said, saying that Israeli officers prevented her from actually touching or getting close to her son.

Rights groups have widely condemned Israel for its medical negligence of Palestinians in its prisons, which Addameer has called a "deliberate policy of neglect."

In August, a number of Palestinian rights organizations established a committee to follow the cases of Palestinians in poor health being held in Israeli prisons.

Rights groups have accused the Israel Prison Service (IPS) of practicing a policy of medical neglect on Palestinian prisoners, leading to at least 17 Palestinian prisoners dying in Israeli custody as a direct result of medical negligence from the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000 until 2008, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer.

In addition to deliberate medical negligence, Addameer has cited the environment in Israeli prisons, which is reportedly far below international standards, the tendency for the Israeli prison administration to ignore their responsibility for the well being of Palestinian prisoners, and the overcrowding in Israeli prisons as all factors that adversely impact the health of Palestinians in Israeli custody.

Prisoners’ rights group Addameer has reported that 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prison, according to their January statistics.
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