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Palestinian woman released after serving 15-year sentence in Israeli prison

April 16, 2017 12:38 P.M. (Updated: April 18, 2017 12:20 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Lina al-Jarbouni was released from Israeli custody on Sunday after completing a 15-year-sentence in Israel's Hasharon prison. She was the longest-serving woman prisoner in Israeli custody.

Speaking to the Gaza-based radio station Sawt al-Asra (the Voice of Prisoners), al-Jarbouni said that her happiness was "mixed with grief" for the thousands of other Palestinians still imprisoned by Israel, and urged all prisoners, both men and women, to support a mass hunger strike scheduled to start on Monday for Palestinian Prisoners' Day.

A group of friends and family awaited al-Jarbouni outside of Hasharon for the emotional reunion.

Scores of locals in her hometown of Arraba al-Batouf in northern Israel had also gathered to greet her upon her return.

The 43-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel was detained on April 18, 2002 and charged over her alleged affiliation to the Islamic Jihad movement and accused of assisting and housing resistance fighters of the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades. She was reportedly detained by Israeli forces when they ransacked her home at 2 a.m., claiming they were searching for drugs.

At the time, al-Jarbouni had been helping supporting her family by working at a sewing workshop.

Well known for her advocacy for Palestinian girls’ right to education inside Israeli prisons, al-Jarbouni has also raised awareness of the plight of sick Palestinian prisoners in Hasharon prison, speaking up about the physical assaults and psychological pressure they endure in addition to medical negligence.

Al-Jarbouni has herself been a victim of the Israeli Prison Service’s (IPS) policy of deliberate medical neglect of prisoners, and suffered from an acute inflammation of her gallbladder and had to undergo a cholecystectomy operation.

According to Palestinian prisoners' solidarity network Samidoun, she was elected as the representative of the Palestinian women prisoners in Hasharon prison.

Al-Jarbouni remained in Israeli custody after the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas in 2011, despite the agreement stipulating the release of all women prisoners. Her father and grandfather were both political prisoners of Israel, and her uncle was reportedly jailed for 14 years for his participation in the Lebanese resistance to Israeli occupation, according to Samidoun.

The group said that al-Jarbouni "was always on the front lines of struggle, involved in hunger strikes, prisoner organizing and protest. She was thrown in solitary confinement for her participation in prisoner protests and denied appropriate medical care for ongoing illnesses, yet always remained committed to building resistance and mutual solidarity among the women prisoners."

They quoted her as saying this time last year: “On Prisoners’ Day, I greet the Palestinian people and all of the free people of the world…Hundreds of women prisoners held behind bars have stood firm in the struggle, along with the sons of our people, confirming that the Palestinian women are struggling against the occupation and fighting for social justice, emancipation and equality in all spheres of life."

The number of female Palestinians in Israeli prisons has drastically increased in recent months, from 25 women in September 2015 to 61 as of this March, according to Addameer.

Addameer meanwhile documented a 70 percent increase in the detention of Palestinian women and girls increase between 2013 and 2015. More than 10,000 Palestinian women have been detained by Israeli forces since 1967.
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