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Hunger striker says 'Palestinian journalists on the frontline'

Jan. 30, 2016 3:42 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 3, 2016 8:45 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Imprisoned Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq sent a statement on Friday from the hospital where he has been held under Israeli custody since his 68-day hunger strike has brought him near to death.

The 33-year-old father of two from the occupied West Bank village of Dura launched the strike after being detained in November and held in Israeli prison without trial or charge.

“Palestinian journalists have always been on the frontline,” al-Qiq said in a statement delivered by a lawyer for the Palestinian Authority's Committee for Prisoners' Affairs.

“They [Palestinian journalists] are now experiencing forceful and abusive detention because they have been the voice of human conscience, exposing crimes and oppressive practices of Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people,” al-Qiq said.

“Palestinian journalists including myself are paying the toll of a racist Israeli policy,” al-Qiq wrote, referring specifically to “journalists who are shot and detained” all over the occupied Palestinian territory.

“When people are been treated tyrannically, they are no longer worried about the consequences even if the toll is life. Thus, I entrusted myself in God’s hands and I will continue with this hunger strike, until martyrdom or freedom,” al-Qiq said in his statement.

The hunger-striker’s message was read in public during a rally held following Friday prayers in al-Qiq’s Hebron-area hometown.

Head of the PA prisoners’ committee, Issa Qaraqe, attended the rally along with representatives from a number of Palestinian factions and relatives of al-Qiq, where the official confirmed past statements that al-Qiq was on the brink of death and refusing to eat, drink, or accept infusions.

Al-Qiq’s hunger strike has received little attention from Palestinian, Israeli, or international audiences, despite mass outcries that have at times accompanied hunger strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners in the past.

The journalist is among many Palestinian reporters to be targeted by Israel, with the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) last week calling on Israel for his release.

The Israeli authorities have suggested that al-Qiq is being held for "incitement," working with Hamas-affiliated media, and being a "threat to security."

Amnesty International meanwhile said last week that withholding al-Qiq on secret evidence under administrative was unlawful, and slammed Israel following reports of torture and mistreatment of the journalist.

Earlier this month, Al-Qiq was reportedly tied to a bed and forcefully held down by prison wardens while a member of the medical staff administered the hunger-striker an infusion of salts and vitamins, according to medical rights group Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI).

The group said that al-Qiq remained tied to the bed and hooked up to the IV drip, while pleading for its removal, for four days.

Investigations by Amnesty International also revealed that al-Qiq was tortured during investigations that immediately followed his detention.

The Israeli Supreme Court delayed on Wednesday its decision on whether or not to release al-Qiq, approving to continue the detainee’s administrative detention until his medical condition had been examined.
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