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Hunger-striking prisoners continue to be transferred, denied lawyer visits

April 21, 2017 11:18 A.M. (Updated: April 25, 2017 4:19 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian hunger-striking prisoner Muhannad Khalid Ibrahim al-Sheikh, 38, from the Kafr Rai village southwest of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank, was transferred Thursday evening between two solitary confinement cells in two separate Israeli prisons, according to Issa Qaraqe, head of Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs.

According to Qaraqe, Israeli Prison Service (IPS) forces transferred al-Sheikh from solitary confinement in northern Israel’s Hadarim prison to solitary confinement in Ela prison, located in the Beersheba district of Israel’s southern Negev desert.

An IPS spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Al-Sheikh was detained in April 2002 for his affiliation to the al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, and for being involved in attacks conducted against Israeli forces. Al-Sheikh has served 15 years out of his 24 year sentence.

Al-Sheikh is one of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners participating in a mass hunger strike, which entered its fourth day on Thursday. The committee has reported dozens of cases like al-Sheikh’s, saying that hundreds of prisoners had been transferred into solitary confinement, while scores were transferred in between prisons.

Meanwhile, the committee released a joint statement with the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) Thursday, saying that following a decision made Wednesday by the Israeli Ministry of Justice saying that it was illegal to ban prisoners from accessing their lawyers -- a move that IPS had been implementing earlier in the week -- a number of lawyers had filed requests to visit prisoners.

However, despite the ministry’s order and lawyers’ demands, the groups reported that IPS has “continued stalling and obstructing the visits.”

As of Thursday, in Ashkelon prison, lawyers were still being banned from seeing prisoners; in Gilbao prison, visitation was agreed on, but postponed until next week; in Ofer prison, lawyers were able to visit three hunger-striking prisoners identified as Luay Eida, Fadi Abu Eita, and Muhammad Hasan, who were all transferred between sections in the prison and had their personal belongings confiscated; in Ela prison, after IPS agreed on the visitation, officials informed lawyers that the prisoners they were supposed to visit were transferred to Eshel prison; in Eshel and Nafha prison, IPS officials refused a visitation permit to a lawyer after he waited for three hours.

Initially called for by Fatah-affiliated prisoners, Palestinian prisoners from across the political spectrum have since pledged their commitment to undertake the strike, with the media committee of the “Freedom and Dignity” strike estimating on Tuesday that some 1,500 prisoners were forgoing food.

The hunger strikers have denounced the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of Palestinian prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges -- which is only permitted under international law in extremely limited circumstances.

Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to a joint statement released on Saturday by Palestinian organizations.

According to prisoners' rights organization Addameer, some 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of March.

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