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Shalabi: Freedom is more precious than life

March 20, 2012 7:37 P.M. (Updated: March 25, 2012 11:47 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Hunger-striking Palestinian detainee Hana Shalabi said Tuesday she will stay on strike despite pressure to back down after 34 days without food.

"It's true our lives are very precious, but our freedom is even more precious and more powerful than their cells," Shalabi said, according to her lawyer Jawad Bulus of the Palestinian prisoners society.

Bulus said the detainee underwent medical tests Monday in Haifa, before she was to be moved to a prison clinic in Ramla. According to the attorney, Shalabi is staying in the same room which once housed Khader Adnan, a hunger-striker who agreed to stop his strike after a deal with Israeli prosecutors.

Shalabi has lost about 16 kilos since starting her strike last month, Bulus said.

A coalition of rights groups, meanwhile, has expressed grave concern for Shalabi's health due to the Israeli prison authorities' refusal to transfer her to a full-service hospital, keeping her instead in a prison clinic.

This is despite Monday's urgent reports by her doctor that she should be transferred immediately, a statement from Addameer, PHR-Israel and Al-Haq said Tuesday.

The groups said they were certain that the quality and facilitation of medical care administered by the prison is not adequate to attend to her current condition.

Shalabi claims the Israelis are using psychological pressure to force her to end her strike. She also complained that the room is unusually cold, and she suffers pain to muscles and her chest.

The hunger-striker disputed claims that she refused to meet a lawyer, saying the prison authorities had actually demanded that she undergo tests before her lawyer arrived. She refused.

Bulus added that Shalabi did not know at first that she was in Haifa, which is where her family originates, but entering that city made her more determined to continue her strike after she found out.

She thanked her supporters and said "this is for all the prisoners and not for me alone".

A large demonstration, meanwhile, demanded her release in the West Bank. The rally organized by the Palestinian Authority marched from the Red Cross building in al-Bireh to Yasser Arafat's tomb in Ramallah.

The PA minister of prisoners, Issa Qaraqe, warned of Shalabi's deteriorating condition and said the West Bank leadership was doing everything possible to engage international support, so far to no avail.

Qaraqe added that during the past 34 days, Israel handled Shalabi’s case "carelessly", which caused her health to deteriorate, and added that there’s no pretext that justifies her detention.

Qadura Fares, the head of the prisoners society, said the Palestinian people as a whole stand with Shalabi. He called on the international community to pressure Israel to end administrative detention.

The policy allows Israel to hold prisoners for up to six months at a time without charge. It can be extended indefinitely, and detainees are usually never told why they are held.

Israel's use of administrative detention contradicts international law and the Fourth Geneva Conventions.

The Israeli government says detention without trial are a necessary security measure and Israeli courts have employed the practice for decades.

Some 300 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention in Israel, including around 20 members of the Palestinian parliament.
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