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Mother, wife 'shocked' with Israel's breaching pledge to release hunger striker

Release hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Maher Al-Akhras! - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]
A caricature depicting the struggle of Palestinian hunger strikers with their Israeli jailors [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

It took more than one week to decorate the house of the Palestinian hunger striker, Mujahid Hamid, who was due to be released from the Israeli occupation jail on 19 January, 2022 after completing four months under administrative detention in Al Naqab Prison.

"We were gravely shocked when we knew that he would not come home," Shahla Hamid, 47, the mother of Mujahid, told MEMO. "I was prepared to hug him and see him hugging his wife and little son, but all of that went in vain when the whole day passed without seeing Mujahid at home."

With soft voice, the mother said that she had prepared the best food he likes and invited relatives and friends in order to take part in the reception she had prepared for him. "His wife, Bayan, prepared herself and her little son, who did not see his father," the mother said, telling me that Mujahid had asked her to send him more money to buy many presents and toys for his son, who thought he would have met him for the first time. "All this did not happen," she said.

Mujahid Hamid, a Palestinian prisoner who spent 43 days on hunger strike in protest against his illegal administrative detention inside the Israeli jails. For the first time, Mujahid, who was born on 29 October 1990, was detained while he was asleep at his house on 22 May, 2010.

"I did not know why he was detained and re-detained until today," his mother said, pointing that he was sentenced over being "dangerous," and he was re-detained and put under administrative detention 14 months after he was released over the same claim.

As she spoke to MEMO, the mother said: "Mujahid was sentenced to seven years before the military prosecution appealed against his sentence which was extended to nine years. I waited, and when he was released on 21 May 2019, we were happy. He got married and, one year later, he had his first and only son."

Journey of suffering

When he was detained for the first time, it was very hard for his parents, mainly his mother who was just 35 years old. "I passed through unimagined suffering during the first nine years," she said, noting that she spent her time following up with the lawyers, the NGOs working with prisoners and the Israeli prisons.

"Mujahid spent the first two years without knowing the reason for his detention," the mother said, noting that she and her family did not also know the reason for his detention. "When he was sentenced, we knew that he was accused of being dangerous," she told said.

When I asked her about what the meaning of being dangerous is, she replied: "I do not know, my son. All  I know is that they spent two years to find any excuse for his detention, but they failed. So that, they said: 'Simply, let's say he is dangerous.'"

"Seven years were not enough for him in the eyes of the Israeli military prosecution, which appealed against his sentence," she said. "One day, his lawyer told me that Mujahid was going to the court and I could attend the hearing arranged for him. I asked the lawyer about the reason for the new hearing and he did not tell me. While I was inside the courtroom, I knew that his term was extended to nine years."

Hypertension, diabetes

Mujahid's mother said that she has never felt sorry for anything in her life except when she collapsed in the courtroom the day when the seven-year-term of her son was extended to nine years. According to her, it was a very emotional day for everyone.

"I was shocked because the lawyer did not tell me what would happen in the court," she said. "When I saw my son, I was happy, but my heart started beating because he stood at the same place when the seven-year prison term was announced the first time. I tried to show up strong and resilient, but when I heard about the extension, I fainted. I could not bear it."

Later on, when she visited him, he told her that he had hypertension and diabetes since the time he saw her collapse before his eyes in the courtroom, and he was unable to help or do anything for her.

When he was released, Mujahid, according to his mother, recovered from these two chronic killers, but said that he returned to suffering again when he went on hunger strike.

For Mujahid's mother, the time he spent in prison was very hard because she did not stop trying to visit him and seeking a bail to reduce his sentence. "A lawyer from the PLO's Prisoners and Freed Prisoners Commission said he could reach a deal with the Israeli judiciary that his term could be reduced after paying a fine," she said. "But, unfortunately, this did not happen."

In 2017, it happened that her husband, Mahmoud, and her son, Abdul Hamid, were in Israeli prisons in addition to Mujahid. "That was a very difficult year," she said, noting that she spent all her time from visiting Mujahid in this prison, Abdul Hamid in that prison and their father in a third prison. In addition, she was busy moving from one court to another to attend hearings of her sons and husband.

"The lawyer told me to prepare a fine for my husband and the two of my sons in order to reduce their sentences or seek their release," she said. "As required by the lawyer, I paid NIS 3,000 for Mujahid, NIS 5,000 for Abdul Hamid and NIS 4,000 for their father. No one was released on that attempted bail. Both Abdul Hamid and his father spent one year each in prison, and Mujahid completed the nine-year term. Before he was released, we were asked to repay the fine for Mujahid."

New journey of suffering

On 21 May 2019, and after nine years in prison, Mujahid was released and was received as a bride in his town. On 26 August 2019, he got married and he had his first and only son on 22 August 2020. Then, he was re-detained on 22 September 2020.

He spent six months under administrative detention. When he completed the first six months, the administrative detention was renewed for another six months. "We started to prepare for the wedding of his brother, hoping he would have been released after completing the second term because we had been told he was not charged," the mother said.

"But when he was not released and the Israeli occupation authorities renewed his administrative detention for four new months, he started a hunger strike," the mother said. "He phoned me and told me that he could not spend all of his life behind bars without any reason and informed me about his decision," she said. "I told him go ahead and encouraged him."

Along with other prisoners, he went on hunger strike and that was harder for his mother and loved ones than his previous imprisonment, because of the hunger strike and the deterioration of his health condition.

"The Israeli occupation did get anything against him, so that it returned to the previous claim that he is 'dangerous' and he could carry out any dangerous act while he is not in prison," the mother told me. "Therefore, he has to remain in prison, according to the Israeli occupation authorities. They do not think of him, his health condition, his wife and his son when they violate his basic rights."

Mujahid remained on hunger strike for 43 consecutive days, during which time he was admitted to an Israeli hospital due to the deterioration of his health. He suffered from hypertension and diabetes and "under the claims of Covid-19 measures, we were prevented from seeing him," the mother said.

"Under pressure staged by him and a group of five other hunger strikers, the Israeli prison services reached a deal with them to end their hunger strike," his mother said. "For Mujahid, they pledged to release him after completing his four-month-term which ended on 19 January 2022."

Breached their pledge

Before 19 January, the mother prepared her house and the wife prepared herself and her son for the reunion, but Mujahid was not released.

"I wished he was released, but this did not happen," she said, adding: "I decorated the house, prepared the food and arranged for a great reception, despite the deep feeling in my heart that he would have been released."

This put the mother and the whole family in a massive shock, but the real shock was for him, according to his mother. "When he was not released on time, he asked the Prison Services about the reason of the delay," she said, "and he was told that the officer who struck the deal with him was absent because of the death of his mother."

Mujahid threatened to resume his hunger strike, "but the Prison Services lied to him and claimed that the officer would come," the mother, who is still waiting to hug her son, said, stressing: "These were merely lies, not more."

When asked about her feeling during the cold wave, she said: "Do not ask about me, but ask about him and his brothers inside the Israeli jails where they do not have proper food, enough covers, wool and thick clothes, gloves, hats, socks and other basic staff."

Shahla said that her son's story is the story of about 550 other prisoners under administrative detention, while the suffering of her son is the story of more than 4,500 prisoners, the total of Palestinian security prisoners inside Israeli jails.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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