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Activists in London demand justice for Palestinian prisoners

International activists staged protests in London and other major cities around the world on what is known as Palestinian Prisoners' Day, which this year fell on Thursday, to express solidarity with Palestinians imprisoned by the Israeli occupation.

According to Ma'an News Agency, Israeli forces have imprisoned over 800,000 Palestinians since occupying the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, including women and children. Israel tries all Palestinians in military, not civil, courts and many are detained indefinitely without ever facing any charges. There are currently 5,224 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Activists in London staged their protest in front of the UK and Ireland head office of G4S, a British-Danish private security company that activists are calling for an international boycott of because it provides services and equipment to Israeli police forces, prisons, checkpoints and the apartheid wall, and is therefore complicit in the Israeli occupation's systematic violation of Palestinians' rights.

A coalition of solidarity groups organised the London protest, which saw activists storming the ground floor of the G4S building and staging a temporary occupation.

According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, "G4S provides security systems and other services for major Israeli prisons which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel. This is in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier." G4S also "provides equipment for prisons and detention facilities in the occupied West Bank" as well as "equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints."

During the protest, two letters from prisoners' families were read out.

The first was from the mother of Samer Al-Issawi, the former Palestinian prisoner who waged a hunger strike lasting 270 days to demand his rights and freedom. Since then, three more of her children have been arrested and detained without charge, including Palestinian lawyer and activist Shireen Al-Issawi, and her activist brothers Shadi and Medhat.

The mother explained that her children have now spent 58 years in prison between them, tearing her family apart. But while she lamented that the occupiers have "vanquished and tortured us", she also vowed that "they will never beat our determination because we are the right owners and because we are defending a just cause."

Yasser Al-Masri, the brother of critically sick Palestinian prisoner Yusri Al-Masri, described in another letter how the occupation authorities have consistently neglected his brother's deteriorating health, abuses that are leading to his imminent death.

Indeed, since the occupation began 208 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons or soon after their release, either by torture or neglect. Yasser warns: "Who knows, maybe my brother will become the 209th Palestinian prisoner to die in Israeli custody; the 209th martyr among our prisoners. We ask you to help stop these crimes immediately for humanity's sake."

Both families appealed to people around the world to call upon their respective governments, as well as the UN and other international rights organisations, to end the violations of Palestinians' rights and to demand justice for all Palestinian prisoners.

Innovative Minds, a London-based activist group, has posted both letters on Facebook.

Images from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK, Innovative Minds & London Palestine Action

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