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2 Palestinians held without charge continue hunger strikes in Israeli prison

March 28, 2017 4:53 P.M. (Updated: March 29, 2017 6:08 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian university student has launched a hunger strike in recent days, while Mahmoud Ali Saada entered his 16th day without food on Tuesday, after the two announced hunger strikes in Israeli prisons in protest of being held in administration detention, an Israeli policy of imprisonment without charge or trial.

Saada, a 41-year-old resident of the town of Huwwara in the northern occupied West Bank, was detained on Feb. 16, 2017, and is being held at Israel’s Jalama detention center without charges, according to Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS) lawyer Salih Ayoub.

Two days ago, Israeli prison authorities moved Saada to a hospital for medical checks, according to Ayoub, who added that Israeli authorities also extended the prisoner’s remand for eight days on Monday.

Last week, Ayoub reported that Saada had been undergoing daily interrogations by prison authorities in Jalama.

Meanwhile, Palestinian university student Kifah Quzmar launched a hunger strike on Sunday March 26 in Israel’s Ashkelon prison, according to Palestinian prisoners’ solidarity network Samidoun, who reported on Tuesday that Quzmar has been shackled and under interrogation since he was detained on March 7.

Samidoun said Quzmar, who is in his final year studying business administration at Birzeit University, was seized by Israeli forces at the Allenby crossing while returning home to the occupied West Bank after traveling abroad.

“After denying that he was in their (Israeli) custody for several days, he was then denied access to a lawyer for 19 days. His lawyer, Anan Odeh, was finally allowed to see him on Sunday, March 26, when his detention was extended by an Israeli military court for eight more days; Odeh reports that his morale and commitment are high and that he is determined to achieve his freedom,” Samidoun reported.

Over the course of his 22 days in detention, Quzmar has been transferred to four separate prisons and interrogation centers, where he has been held in confinement and almost continuously kept in handcuffs, according to the report.

Samidoun added that Quzmar was arrested by the Palestinian Authority (PA) last year “after he posted critical comments about the PA’s arrest of his friend Seif al-Idrissi on Facebook, and was released on bail after widespread Palestinian and international response to his arrest.” Al-Idrissi was released from PA prison last year following a 10-day hunger strike launched with five other activists held without charge or trial by the PA.

Al-Idrissi and three of the other activists previously detained by the PA continue to face charges in Palestinian court -- despite now being held in Israeli custody.

The case has sparked widespread outrage against the PA’s security coordination with Israel, particularly after the activists’ fellow hunger striker Basel al-Araj was killed by Israeli forces after being released from PA prison.

According to Samidoun, Quzmar is among 60 Birzeit University students and hundreds of other Palestinian students from other universities who are held as political prisoners by Israel. “Indeed, students are specifically targeted for arrests, especially as annual Palestinian student elections approach,” Samidoun noted.

While Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed that 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 say that Israel's administrative detention policy has also been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists. According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,500 Palestinians were detained by Israel as of January, 536 of whom were held in administrative detention.
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