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Maher Younis released after 40 years in Israeli prison, but occupation state bans celebration 

Maher’s releasee comes two weeks after the release of his cousin Karim Younis who also served the same sentence

At dawn on Thursday, the Israeli occupation authorities released Maher Younis after holding him for forty years in prison. Younis, 63, was one of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners held by the occupation state.

He was released from a prison in the Negev to return to his home in the town of A'ra in the northern triangle in the occupied Palestinian territories. First, though, he went to the grave of his father, who died in 2008.

"We wish for the freedom of all prisoners and hope to see them in good health," said Younis in his first public statement. "The best gift to our Palestinian people is for us to be on the path of reconciliation and completely liberated. My hope had been to see my homeland liberated after 40 years."

The release was appreciated widely, despite the Israeli ban on any celebrations. Pictures show occupation forces surrounding his house to prevent any celebration tents being erected. The extreme far-right Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has stressed the ban on flying Palestinian flags in celebration of the release of prisoners.

However, Karim Younis, Maher's cousin, challenged the occupation by saying that the people will hold a celebration that is worthy of him. Another relative, Nadim Younis, said that the number of people coming to the village to congratulate the released prisoner is growing, even though the now ex-prisoner had not yet reached his home. Nevertheless, people were getting ready to welcome Maher and greet him on his return.

In his interview with Arabi 21, Nadim Younis said that the Israeli occupation police stationed in the area were preparing to prevent any celebration of the prisoner, and to prevent people from playing music or setting up a celebration tent.

WATCH: Palestinian factions congratulate prisoner released after 40 years

The occupation forces started to harass Maher Younis some time before his release. He was removed from his dormitory without notice to prevent him from saying goodbye to his fellow prisoners. At the same time, he was subjected to interrogation, as were his brothers, threatening them with imprisonment and other penalties if they ignore Ben-Gvir's orders not to set up a tent.

Maher Younis joined the Fatah movement as a young man, and was accused of killing an occupation soldier and possessing weapons illegally. Following his arrest in 1983, he was sentenced to death by hanging, along with his cousins Karim and Sami Younis. The sentence was reduced on appeal to life imprisonment. In 2012, Karim and Maher Younis took legal action and succeeded in reducing the prison terms from life to 40 years.

Sanctions imposed on Maher Younis in prison meant that he was denied permission to see his father before he passed away in 2008. Moreover, he was stopped from meeting his cousins during his sentence.

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