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22 year-old prisoner dies of medical negligence in Israeli prison


By Julie C. - November 08, 2013
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Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features] [Behind Bars]
Tags: [prisoners] [Israeli Prison Service]

22-year-old prisoner, Hasan Turabi, died of leukemia at the Afula Medical Center in the north of present-day Israel last Tuesday, 5 November. The young man, from the village of Sarra, near Nablus, had been in Israel’s Megiddo prison since 17 January.

Already hospitalized once in March this year, Turabi’s health deteriorated again three weeks ago despite reports from the prison’s physician stating that he was in good condition. The Palestinian Minister of Detainees and human rights organization are accusing Israeli prison authorities of medical negligence. 

“On his last report, the doctor of the prison said he was doing okay,” says Mohamad Nader Kharraz, Turabi’s lawyer. In order to expose the prison doctor’s report for the fabrication that it was, Kharraz appealed to the Israeli court, asking them to require an examination by an external doctor for his client.

The court dismissed the appeal, stating that the prison doctor’s report was sufficient. For Turabi’s lawyer, this rejection is a method frequently used in order to prevent prisoners from leaving jail early for medical reasons, and therefore, not serving their full sentence. 

Despite the Israeli court system’s trust in the prison doctor’s examination, Turabi’s last statement before his death, taken by Hiba Maslaha, a lawyer for the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Prisoners Affairs, tells a different story. 

“I have been suffering from extreme headaches and abdominal problems for two weeks and I’m often dizzy. I went to the prison’s clinic almost every day but they only gave me pain killers which did not help me at all. Ten days before the incident (burst blood vessels) I threw up a relatively large amount of blood and went to the clinic but I did not receive any treatment. On Tuesday I felt extremely dizzy with strong abdominal pain and headache, then I suddenly started throwing up and I lost consciousness.”

 Addameer, the Ramallah based Prisoner Support and Human Rights organization, published Turabi’s statement in a press release issued the day of his death. 

A “systematic policy of medical negligence”

“At the time of his arrest Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) already knew that he suffered from leukaemia,” Addameer’s press release argues. 

According to the organization, his death is directly related to the improper and inadequate treatment Palestinians receive from the Israeli Prison Service (IPS). 

“The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has adopted a systematic policy of medical negligence in prisons and detention centres housing Palestinian detainees. Long delays in providing substandard medical treatment are typical. Although all prisons include a medical clinic, physicians are on duty irregularly and specialized medical healthcare is generally unavailable,” writes Addameer on its official website. 

For Turabi’s lawyer, the prison’s physician is a “criminal.” Gavan Kelly, Addameer’s Communication Officer, similarly argues that “the so-called 'doctors’ are hired by the prison’s services,” not by the civil medical authorities. “Their loyalty lies with the security services,” says Kelly.  

"Prison medics treated the case recklessly and did not give him any medicine until he collapsed and lost consciousness on March 16, 2013”, declared Issa Qaraqe, PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, in an interview with Ma’an News Agency

Turabi is now one of the 52 other prisoners who have died within Israeli prisons since 1967, with Turabi being the third prisoner to die in 2013 alone. 

Gavan Kelly estimates that as many as 44 Palestinians could be suffering from cancer without appropriate care within Israel’s network of prisons.  

Turabi’s death sparked protests in Megiddo prison that lasted throughout the day on Tuesday. 20 prisoners were injured after the Israeli prison guards assaulted the inmates for refusing their meals and daily break in the prison yard. 

“Detainees being held in Nafta jail launched a two-day hunger strike in response to the death, while lawyers who work for the PA Ministry of Prisoners boycotted Israeli courts in protest against Israel's 'systematic’ medical negligence,” reports Ma’an News Agency.

In its press release, Addameercalls on the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon to immediately form an international committee to investigate the conditions and treatment of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, and also investigate the continued systematic torture practiced by the Israeli security services and IPS.” 

For Addameer’s communication officer, Gavan Kelly, this situation “will not change until more pressure is put on Israel” in order to “hold the authorities accountable.”   

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