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Imprisoned hunger striker al-Qiq refuses Israeli offer to be released in May

Feb. 7, 2016 10:46 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 8, 2016 7:44 P.M.)
A Palestinian holds up a poster depicting Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike to protest his administrative detention. (AFP/Abbas Momani, File)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Muhammad al-Qiq rejected an offer by an Israeli military court to be released on May 1 and demanded an immediate end to his administrative detention, the Palestinian Authority Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said on Sunday.

The committee said that Palestinian member of Knesset Osama Saadi and lawyer Ashraf Abu Sneinah received the offer after al-Qiq’s health severely deteriorated as he reached the 75th day of his hunger strike.

Al-Qiq, a 33-year-old Palestinian journalist and father of two, began his hunger strike in November to protest his administrative detention by Israel -- internment without trial or charge.

An Israeli doctor at the hospital where al-Qiq is being detained said on Saturday that the Palestinian journalist was in a critical condition, and that “each minute marks serious threat to his life.”

According to the committee, al-Qiq refuses any offer that does not include his release from administrative detention, as well as the guarantee that he will receive medical treatment in a Palestinian hospital once freed.

An Israeli court had offered on Thursday to temporarily suspend al-Qiq’s administrative detention, with the sentence to be resumed upon an improvement of his health, a proposition al-Qiq rejected.

Al-Qiq, who has lost his ability to speak due to his frail health and now only communicates in writing, has said he will continue his hunger strike until "martyrdom or freedom."

Dozens of Palestinians in the al-Duheisha refugee camp south of Bethlehem participated in a march on Sunday in solidarity with imprisoned Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq. Residents of al-Duheisha have also set up a tent in solidarity with al-Qiq.

As al-Qiq is being held in administrative detention, any possible evidence against him has been kept secret by the Israeli authorities.

However, Amnesty International reported in January that the military judge at the Ofer Military Court said al-Qiq's file "accuses him of 'incitement,' of working with media associated with Hamas ... and also of being a 'threat to the security of the area.'"

Following Amnesty's report, Mahmoud Ulayyan, a member of Gaza's journalism union, said that al-Qiq was evidently being held due to his work as a journalist, and that Palestinian journalists urgently needed protection from the "continuous Israeli violations" launched against them.

The Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said the Palestinian Authority has been continuously pressuring Israel to meet al-Qiq’s demands and save his life, adding that it held Israel fully responsible for the Palestinian journalist’s fate.
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