Approximately 23 days have passed since Palestinian prisoners began a mass hunger strike in protest against their illegal and inhumane treatment. Today, more than 2,500 prisoners are participating in the protests, including members of all political parties. Two of the Palestinian detainees, Tha’er Muhammad Halahleh and Bilal Nabil Diyab, who have been detained without charge or trial, have been on hunger strike for 74 days. According to their lawyer, Jamil Kamel al-Khatib, the two men, who are being held in al-Ramla Prison medical clinic, are in critical condition and are at immediate risk of death.
On 7 May, after examining the ‘secret file’ against Tha’er and Bilal, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected their appeal and confirmed their administrative detention. Additionally, the judges concluded that the two appellants are a threat to the security of Israel; as a result, their administrative detention could be renewed again after the expiration of the current detention order. The judges also stated that the hunger strike and the health condition of the detainees would not affect the court’s decision.
Another particularly alarming case is the one of 74-year old Ahmad Al-Haj ‘Ali, who is entering today his 23rd day of hunger strike.
Ahmad Al-Haj ‘Ali
Ahmad Al-Haj ‘Ali, an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was arrested on 7 June 2011 and issued with a six-month detention order. He has been on hunger strike from 14 to 28 March and again since 17 April. Numerous inconclusive administrative detention orders have resulted in Ahmad spending over seven years of his life in Israeli prisons.
On the day of his arrest, at approximately 1:30 am, at their house in Nablus Ahmad’s wife, Amira Muhammad Ahmad, was woken up by her husband who saw Israeli soldiers coming towards the house to arrest him. After a few minutes, Amira heard somebody hammering on the door. She remained in the bedroom while Ahmad opened the door. From her bedroom, Amira could see five armed masked soldiers standing in the corridor. She heard one of them ordering her husband to dress himself because he was under arrest. The soldiers exited the house half an hour later taking Ahmad with them.
According to Iman, Ahmad’s eldest daughter, who lives in the same building, their house was surrounded by a large number of Israeli soldiers on the night of her father’s arrest. An hour later, Iman saw Israeli soldiers taking her father, in handcuffs, to a military jeep. At approximately 7:00 am, Iman received a phone call from an Israeli soldier, who informed her that her father had been arrested. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 6400/2011)
Ahmad was held under administrative detention at Magiddo Prison for a period of six months. His detention order was renewed for another six months at the beginning of December 2011. On 13 December 2011, the Israeli Court of First Instance decreased the detention period from six to four months. However, the prosecution filed an appeal and two months later, the Israeli Appeal Court reinstated the original six-month detention order. Ahamd’s lawyer then filed an appeal to the Israeli High Court of Justice, which scheduled a hearing for 19 March 2012. The Israeli High Court of Justice rejected Ahmad’s appeal and confirmed the detention period of six months.
Ahmad suffers from health problems concerning his prostate, sinuses and inflammation of joints, conditions that have all been exacerbated by his prolonged detention. Despite his deteriorating health, on 14 March 2012 Ahmad started a hunger strike to protest his illegal administrative detention without charge or trial. He ended the hunger strike after 14 days as the Israeli authorities committed to his release on 7 April. As his guarantee for freedom was not upheld, Ahmad restarted his hunger strike on 17 April.
Ahmad has been denied family visits since he was detained in June. Each of his five children has been refused visitation permits by the Israeli authorities. Ahmad’s wife, who is 66 years old, only one week before her husband’s most recent arrest suffered a stroke, which left her with impaired movement and speech. As a result of her condition, she is unable to travel to see Ahmad. The only family member who can visit Ahmad is his grandson Abdullah ‘Ali Ahmad who is only 11 years old and must be accompanied by a relative of another prisoner.