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Palestinian minister leads protest against long jail sentences in Israel

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The Palestinian Minister for Prisoners' Affairs in the Ramallah Authority has taken the lead in popular protests in solidarity with prisoners who are serving long-term sentences in Israeli. Isa Qaraqe called for the protests to take place on the 13th September anniversary of the Oslo Accords.

Qaraqe pointed out that the release of all prisoners held by Israel from before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority was a condition of the Oslo agreement with the Israelis. He added that the protest is also intended to highlight the ongoing struggle in support of prisoners on hunger strike.


Prisoners themselves also announced earlier that the Oslo anniversary will be a day of action against the Israeli prison services. They said in a statement that they will go on hunger strike for the day as part of the general popular protest. "How was peace achieved through Oslo when those who had fought for it were not set free?" they asked President Mahmoud Abbas, who was instrumental in the discussions which lead to Oslo being signed.

Earlier this week, a number of prisoners' families organised their own protest in front of the headquarters of the International Red Cross in Al-Beeri in the occupied West Bank. They called for the release of their sons who have been behind bars for more than two decades and those who have been on hunger strike for months; at least one prisoner, Samer al-Barq, has been on hunger strike for more than 100 days. He was a Palestinian refugee detained in Jordan and handed over to the Israelis in July 2010.

Ayman al-Barq told reporters that his family is calling for Egypt to accept his brother as the Israeli authorities have agreed to release him to a third country. Ayman also mentioned that his brother's wife, who is a Pakistani citizen, had applied for an entry visa to Pakistan for her husband, but the application was refused.

The number of Palestinian prisoners serving long jail terms in Israeli prisons stands at 112. Seventy-nine have life sentences and 33 are in for between 20 and 40 years. Seventy one have spent more than 20 years in prison and 21 have been in jail for more than a quarter of a century.

MEMO Photographer: Ibtehal Mansour

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