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Hunger striker Muhammad al-Qiq held in 'grave-like' prison cell, lawyer says

Feb. 19, 2017 5:22 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 20, 2017 10:56 A.M.)
(File)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Imprisoned Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for two weeks, has been held by Israel in a “grave-like” prison cell, his lawyer said on Sunday.

Al-Qiq, who lives in Ramallah and is originally from Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, was released from prison in May last year after having gone without food for a grueling 94 days -- to protest his administrative detention at the time.

However, al-Qiq was redetained in mid-January after he participated in a protest in the West Bank city of Bethlehem demanding the release of bodies of slain Palestinians held in Israeli custody, and once again placed under administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges.

Al-Qiq's lawyer, Khalid Zabarqa, told Ma’an that he was finally allowed to visit al-Qiq on Sunday, after awaiting a response from Israeli intelligence for ten days to grant him access to the detainee at the Kishon detention center in northern Israel.

"Al-Qiq is held in a small cell measuring barely four square meters and lacking the minimum basic living requirements," Zabarqa said, adding that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) had "refused to provide al-Qiq with winter clothes and sheets, leaving him unable to sleep due to low temperatures."

He added that al-Qiq was also suffering from dizziness, loss of balance, and back pain.

Israel was deliberately imposing tough detention conditions on al-Qiq to coerce him into ending his hunger strike, Zabarqa claimed.

According to Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun, Israeli authorities had not garnered confessions or issued charges against al-Qiq as of late January, although they had earlier expressed that they were investigating him for alleged “incitement” on social media, amid a crackdown on freedom of expression among Palestinian activists and journalists.

Al-Qiq’s previous imprisonment by Israel -- widely condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other rights groups -- and subsequent hunger strike cast a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, its arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinians, and the concerted targeting of Palestinian journalists.

Al-Qiq was one of a number of prominent Palestinian hunger strikers in 2016, who included the Balboul brothers who went without food for 77 and 79 days, Malik al-Qadi for 68 days, Bilal Kayid for 71 days.

While Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals, is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.

Rights groups have claimed that Israel's administrative detention policy has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists.

According to Addameer, as of January, 6,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 536 of whom were being held under administrative detention.
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