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Egypt presses Israel for release of hunger striker

February 15, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Officials in Egypt are intensifying their efforts to obtain the release of Palestinian hunger striker Samer Al-Issawi. His protest at the conditions faced by Palestinian prisoners held by Israel started several months ago.

The Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs in Ramallah, Issa Qaraqe, told on Thursday, “Egypt is making great efforts to compel Israel to abide by the terms of the Shalit [prisoner exchange] deal and respond to the demands of the prisoners who are on hunger strike.” He said that conditions are so bad for Palestinians in Israeli jails that he fears an “explosion”. He pointed out that Israel refuses to respond to international calls demanding the release of sick prisoners just as it refuses to abide by the terms of the Shalit deal.

The Palestinian leadership is completely committed to refusing any attempt to restart negotiations with Israel until the prisoners have been released. “Israel will be held fully responsible for any prisoners who die whilst in its jails,” added the minister.

The Israel Prison Service did release Al-Issawi as part of the Shalit deal in October 2011, but then re-arrested him in July 2012. The following month he began an open-ended hunger strike in protest against the continuation of his administrative detention, which is renewed automatically every 6 months without charge or trial.

The Israeli public prosecutor has demanded that Al-Issawi, who is from Jerusalem, be sentenced for 20 years under the pretext of organising political activities and visiting areas in the occupied West Bank. He was first arrested by the Israelis in early 2003 on charges of belonging to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine; at that time he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.