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Samer Issawi sentenced to 8 months in prison

Feb. 21, 2013 4:29 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 27, 2013 1:40 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli court on Thursday sentenced hunger-striker Samer Issawi to eight months in prison, but he has yet to face a military committee which could imprison him for 20 years.

Issawi has been on hunger strike for 204 days.

The magistrates court in Jerusalem sentenced Issawi for leaving Jerusalem, in violation of the terms of his amnesty granted in an Oct. 2011 prisoner exchange deal.

The sentence includes time served since Issawi's re-arrest in July 2012, and will conclude on March 6, but Issawi also faces a possible sentence under an Israeli military order which allows a special military committee to cancel prisoners' amnesty.

The committee could use secret evidence to sentence Issawi to serve 20 years, the remainder of his previous sentence.

Issawi was freed in an Oct. 2011 prisoner swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Israel has subsequently re-arrested at least 14 prisoners since the deal.

Ahead of Thursday's verdict, Israeli forces clashed with hundreds of Palestinians protesting near Ramallah on Thursday in solidarity with long-term hunger strikers like Issawi.

A Ma'an reporter said 29 protesters were injured by rubber-coated bullets and dozens more suffered tear gas inhalation.

Prisoners minister Issa Qaraqe and Fatah central committee member Mahmoud al-Aloul joined the rally, near Israel's Ofer prison in the central West Bank.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers used "riot dispersal means" against Palestinians who hurled rocks at forces.

Protests have been held across the West Bank and in Gaza in support of Issawi, who has been on hunger strike for 204 days, and Tareq Qaadan and Jaafar Azzidine who have refused food for 86 days.

Also Thursday, the Ahmed Abu Rish Brigades on Thursday threatened to fire rockets at Israel if any jailed hunger striker is harmed.

"We will continue to work with rockets and we will not stand by idly. Military operations will be implemented to achieve the rights of prisoners and to free them," brigades member Abu Ali al-Qawkabi said in a statement.

Al-Qawkabi called on Palestinian leaders in Ramallah to reject any negotiations with Israel and urged the Gaza government to refuse a truce until the detainees' demands are met.

Islamic Jihad meanwhile has said a truce with Israel could unravel if any hunger striker dies.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority called on the international community to step up efforts to protect and release prisoner like Issawi in Israeli detention facilities.

The cabinet also called on the World Health Organization to move forward on plans made last year to form a fact-finding committee to investigate the conditions in Israeli jails, specifically negligence.
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