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Erekat: President asks Blair to intervene for prisoners

May 3, 2012 1:23 P.M. (Updated: May 5, 2012 9:35 A.M.)
JERICHO (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Quartet envoy Tony Blair to urgently intervene in Israel's treatment of Palestinian prisoners, PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said Thursday.

In a statement, Erekat said he conveyed the president's message to Blair, who heads the Quartet of international peace mediators.

The president demanded Israel release all prisoners, particularly those jailed before 1994 and those held without charge. Abbas also called on Israel to end all restrictions on detainees' access to education and family visits, Erekat said.

Thousands of Palestinians are on hunger strike in Israeli jails, and several are at risk of death. They are protesting detention without trial, restrictive visiting rights and limited access to educational materials.

Erekat said he had met with US consul-general Daniel Rubenstein and requested his urgent intervention. The PLO official also continued to call on UN, Israeli and European officials to intervene, he said.

Israeli authorities are responsible for the health of all Palestinian prisoners, he added.

Saadat urges Erekat, Fayyad to visit detainees

Jailed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Ahmad Saadat on Thursday urged Erekat and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to seek Egyptian and Jordanian intervention for prisoners on hunger strike.

Saadat, who has been in solitary confinement since 2006, joined a mass hunger strike on April 17 and was hospitalized on Sunday after suffering a serious deterioration in his health.

In a message delivered by lawyer Fadi Obidat, who visited Saadat in al-Ramla prison hospital, the PFLP secretary-general urged Erekat and Fayyad to visit two prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 65 days.

Bilal Diab, 27, from Jenin, and Thaer Halahla, 33, from Hebron, have refused food since Feb. 29. An Israeli doctor who visited them on Monday warned Diab was at risk of immediate death, the prisoner rights group Addameer said.

"Bilal’s life-threatening condition includes sharp weight loss, concern for peripheral nerve damage, extremely low pulse (39 beats per minute) and blood pressure, severe dehydration, and possible internal bleeding," the doctor told Addameer.

HRW: Israel must stop detentions without trial

Diab and Halahla are among over 300 Palestinian detainees held in Israeli jails in administrative detention without charge or trial.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Israel to "immediately charge or release people jailed without charge or trial under so-called administrative detention," in a statement.

"It shouldn't take the self-starvation of Palestinian prisoners for Israel to realize it is violating their due process rights," HRW deputy regional director Joe Stork.

Earlier this year, Israel struck deals with two administrative detainees who went on lengthy hunger strikes demanding to be charged with a crime or released.

Israel commuted the sentence of Khader Adnan after a 66-day hunger strike and deported Hana Shalabi to Gaza after she refused food for 41 days.

Addameer says around 2,000 prisoners have joined a mass hunger strike launched on April 17, Palestinian Prisoners Day.

Detainees on hunger strike in Gilboa prison in northern Israel said Thursday that prison officials had confiscated their belongings.

Mohammad Arman told his lawyer Wajeeh Abu Khalil that Gilboa prison administration told him he would only receive medical attention if he ended his strike.

Gilboa prison's doctor lacks medical ethics and refuses detainees treatment, Arman said.
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