Friday, October 30, 2020

Palestinian hunger strikers secure move to prisons closer to home

By Tadas Blinda - July 02, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Behind Bars]
Tags: [prisoners] [Life behind bars] [Israeli Justice System] [Israeli law] [Hunger Strike]

Photo of Israeli jail Cell

Eight Palestinian prisoners began a collective hunger strike, on Monday 17 June, in response to their transfer to prisons in southern Israel, away from their families. All of the men were put in solitary confinement after launching their strike. Last week Israeli authorities conceded to the hunger strikers demands, allowing the men to be moved to prisons closer to their families.

Before their transfer to Ramon prison in southern Israel, the eight Palestinian prisoners were held in a prison close to their hometowns in the northern part of the county. The change of prisons meant that it was much harder for their families to visit them, requiring visitors to cross multiple checkpoints on their way to Ramon prison, thus extending travel time by at least a few hours.

“It is difficult for a prisoner’s family to travel to prisons from north to south. That’s why prisoners request to be moved to prisons closer to their homes. It is punishment for both prisoners and their families,” Abdel Anani of the Palestinian Prisoners Society told Palestine Monitor.

Transferring prisoners to another part of the country is a common Israeli practice, a form of collective punishment for both prisoners and their families. 

According to the Palestinian Prisoner Society, transferring prisoners to another part of the country is a common Israeli practice, a form of collective punishment for both prisoners and their families. Many family members have to start their trip as early as 3 AM in order to make it on time to see their incarcerated relatives. Moreover, upon arriving, visitors are often denied visitation rights. On the long journey back many visitors are dropped off in nearby cities late at night, thus requiring them to wait until the next morning to make it home.

The Palestinian Prisoner Society informed Palestine Monitor that last week eight of the prisoners on hunger strike have reached a deal with Israeli authorities and should be moved within the next three months to a prison in the north that is closer to their families. 

The Palestinian Prisoner Society estimates that only eight of the twenty-three Palestinian on hunger strike have reached a deal with the Israeli’s, the rest continue their hunger strike. Some of these prisoners have been without food for more than two months. All prisoners have refused to take food supplements or vitamins. 

Five of the hunger strikers are Jordanian citizens whose families are not allowed to come to Israel and visit them despite the fact that Israel and Jordan signed an agreement back in 2004 allowing Jordanian citizens to visit Israel. Abdullah al-Barghouti , one of the five Jordanians on hunger strike, has been deprived of the right to see his family for 14 years.

Abdullah al-Barghouti, one of the five Jordanians on hunger strike, has been deprived of the right to see his family for 14 years. 

"Family visits have to be held at least twice a month. But they don’t let prisoner’s families to visit them for years. Most of them haven’t got any visits,” states Anani of the Palestinian Prisoners Society.

Another reason for the latest round of hunger strikes is Israel’s pattern of extending  six-month periods of administrative detention without charge or trial. Arrests are usually based on 'secret evidence’ that is not accessible to the detainee or his lawyer, making such cases almost impossible to defend. According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, Israel is currently holding around 200 people under administrative detention.  In the last months more than 50 administrative detainees have had their incarceration extended for yet another six-month period.

“If they would know the exact day when they will be set free they can stop hunger strike. There has to be a lawyer present and everything has to be on paper, because Israelis are only speaking and making verbal promises to make them [prisoners] stop hunger strikes but when time comes to release them it is not happening,” Anani told the Palestine Monitor. 

Anani added; “Prisoners are afraid that they will be jailed again and never be freed. They want to have guarantees and this is the main reason for strikes.”

The Israeli authorities have utilized different techniques to stop hunger strikes throughout the occupation. Hunger strikers are often sent to different prisons and put in solitary confinement to prevent them from communicating with one another.  Others are stripped of their right to family visits as mentioned previously. Abdel Anani told the Palestine Monitor that if a hunger striker become ill, Israeli authorities would tell him that in order to receive the appropriate medicine he would first have to stop his strike. 

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