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IPS meets with strike leaders as female prisoners denounce detention conditions

June 5, 2017 10:02 P.M. (Updated: June 7, 2017 4:23 P.M.)
Imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi. (File)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- The Israel Prison Service (IPS) administration has met with Palestinian prisoners representing a mass hunger strike, which ended more than a week ago after hundreds went without food for 40 days, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported Monday.

The meetings, the details of which remained unclear as of Monday evening, took place as reports emerged that some female Palestinian prisoners were planning civil disobedience measures to denounce detention conditions.

PPS reported that a meeting took place in the Hadarim prison, where hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouthi is being held, and also in Ashkelon prison, between leading prisoners and IPS, to determine how to implement an agreement that ended the hunger strike.

PPS added that a committee had been formed to improve the detention conditions of prisoners, as PPS Qaddura Fares said he was “completely confident” that the leadership of the strike would be capable of fully implementing the agreement, adding that the prisoners were ready to once again forego food should IPS not respect the deal.

But while Fares said that IPS had finally halted all punitive procedures against prisoners a few days after the end of the hunger strike, which ended on May 27, Palestinian women held in HaSharon prison said that they would refuse dinner and mandated outdoors time in protest of abusive IPS measures.

The mother of prisoner Marah Bakir told Ma’an that, during a visit to her daughter on Monday, she was told that IPS in HaSharon had not responded to any of the prisoners’ demands, and had begun conducting full-body naked searches to incoming prisoners.

Bakir said that the prisoners were held in overcrowded conditions, with nine prisoners in each cell, adding that IPS was planning on transferring 11 prisoners from HaSharon to a prison in the central Israeli town of Ramla largely dedicated to criminal cases -- despite the fact that Palestinian detainees are deemed “security prisoners” by Israel and “political prisoners” by Palestine -- potentially putting the women in harm’s way among the general Israeli prison population.

Bakir added that IPS had also increased the price of food supplies in the prison cafeteria and commissary, and had failed to fix the prison refrigerator, causing the prisoners’ food to spoil.

An IPS spokesperson was not immediately available for comment on Monday on the either the meeting nor on the developments in HaSharon.

Some 56 Palestinian women are currently being imprisoned by Israel, according to the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs. However, prisoners' rights group Addameer said that there were 61 Palestinian women and girls in Israeli custody as of April.

The mass 40-day hunger strike that ended in Israeli prisons last month reportedly resulted in a number of agreements being reached between Palestinian prisoners and Israeli authorities, including an agreement to gather all female Palestinian prisoners in HaSharon.

An IPS spokesperson previously told Ma’an that the only outcome of the strike was the restoration of family visitation sessions for prisoners to two times a month, resulting from an agreement made between the PA and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), without the involvement of Israeli authorities.

However, Barghouthi said last week that the hunger strikers were able to “extract a number of just and humanitarian achievements” from prison authorities, and that prisoners had agreed to the formation of a “committee of senior officials of the Prison Service” to continue dialogue with representatives of the Palestinian prisoners during the following days “to discuss all issues without exception.”

The hunger-striking prisoners had called for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention -- imprisonment without charge or trial -- among other demands for basic rights.

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of April, most of whom are being held inside the Israeli territory in contravention of international law.

Addameer has reported that 40 percent of the male Palestinian population has been detained by Israeli authorities at some point in their lives.
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