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Israel freezes hunger striker's detention without trial

Feb. 4, 2016 6:06 P.M. (Updated: March 19, 2016 4:31 P.M.)
A Palestinian holds up a poster depicting Muhammad al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike more than 70 days. (AFP/Abbas Momani, File)
By: Killian Redden

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's top court on Thursday suspended the detention without trial of Palestinian prisoner Muhammad al-Qiq citing medical concerns, 72 days into the prisoner's life-threatening hunger strike.

Qadura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoner's Society, told Ma'an that Israel's Supreme Court was freezing al-Qiq's six-month administrative detention order until his health improved.

However, he stressed that the sentence had not been overturned and al-Qiq was likely to remain on hunger strike.

"It's a bad decision," Fares said. "I don't believe he will accept it."

He said he believed al-Qiq might use the opportunity to accept medical treatment while seeking a more acceptable solution.

Al-Qiq has said he will continue his hunger strike until "martyrdom or freedom."

The 33-year-old journalist from the occupied West Bank initially went on hunger strike in late November to protest the torture and ill-treatment he said he faced in Israeli custody.

However, his protest quickly developed into another bid to challenge Israel's use of administrative detention -- internment without trial or charge.

Numerous Palestinian prisoners have undertaken hunger strikes to protest the controversial practice, including last year Khader Adnan and Muhammad Allan, who were both close to death by the time Israel agreed to their release.

In recent days, a number of international bodies, including the UN and European Union, have expressed concern over al-Qiq's situation, as well as Israel's use of administrative detention for some 660 Palestinian prisoners.

On Wednesday, UN official Robert Piper condemned the "arbitrary nature of his detention," saying: "I reiterate the United Nations' long-standing position that all administrative detainees -- Palestinian or Israeli -- should be charged or released without delay."

The Palestinian Prisoner's Society has said that Israel's security establishment has so far shown little willingness to negotiate on al-Qiq's release.

During previous hunger strikes, Israel feared that prisoners' deaths might spark unrest in the occupied Palestinian territory, but unrest has already shaken the territory for months, and Fares said last week that the security establishment now believe they have "nothing to lose."

Thursday's court ruling mirrors a decision taken last year to temporarily freeze the administrative detention of Palestinian hunger striker Muhammad Allan.

Allan continued his hunger strike following that decision and he only agreed to end the protest when Israel promised not to renew his administrative detention.
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