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French delegation delays visit to Palestinian prisoners

Israeli security forces break up Palestinian protests organised to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, in Ramallah, West Bank on April 23, 2017 [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]
Israeli security forces break up a Palestinian protest organised to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, in Ramallah, West Bank on 23 April 2017 [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]

A French delegation of elected officials and lawmakers on Friday decided to postpone their visit to imprisoned Palestinian activists, “faced with Israeli government threats”.

The members of the delegation made the decision after meeting Friday night with officials from the French foreign ministry.

The delegation, part of the “Barghouti network” — named after prominent Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in Israel — were scheduled to start a five-day visit to Palestine and Israel on Saturday.

Attitude of Israeli government amounts to ‘contempt of the French Republic and its elected officials’

delegation says.

The delegation was planning to visit Barghouti and Salah Hamouri, a French-Palestinian prisoners’ rights activist arrested by Israeli forces in August.

“The growing pressure by the Israeli government on our Israeli and Palestinian partners, its strategy of tension, does not ensure the security of the delegation. We would not have been able to ensure our program of meetings with Israeli parliamentarians in the Knesset and the Palestinian Authority in the Muqata as well as with NGOs,” said the representatives of the Barghouti network in a statement.

READ: French lawmakers walk out of parliament in protest of anti-Palestinian comments

The network said the attitude of the Israeli government signifies “a contempt of the French Republic and its elected officials”.

“In this situation, we will redo steps to ask the French government to support a new application for authorization to meet Marwan Barghouti and Salah Hamouri in prison.”

Israel announced Monday it would not allow the seven-member delegation to enter the country due to their support for a boycott of Israel, according to the Haartez newspaper.

It reported the decision was based on legislation passed by Israel’s parliament earlier this year that forbids entry visas or rights of residency to foreigners who support an international campaign against Israel.

Some of the group’s members had reportedly supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, a global campaign launched in 2005 to create more economic and political pressure on Israel as well as to end international support for its occupation of Palestinian land.

Barghouti on April 16 wrote an article for the New York Times from Hadarim Prison describing the difficulties faced by Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons and launched a hunger strike.

At least 200 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons since 1967 while about 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested or detained so far. This corresponds to 40 percent of the Palestinian male population.

READ: 500 Palestinian prisoners serving life terms in Israel jails

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