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Israeli court criticized for ruling on near-death Palestinian hunger striker

Feb. 18, 2016 8:49 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 22, 2016 5:57 P.M.)
By: Emily Mulder

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Prominent Israeli rights group B’Tselem on Thursday criticized a ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice on Palestinian hunger striker Muhammad al-Qiq as a “new low in the instrumentalist approach to human beings.”

In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Executive Director of the group Hagai Elad called for the immediate release of the 33-year-old journalist as he entered day 86 on strike against his administrative detention without charge or trial.

Eyad slammed the rationale used by Israeli justices to reject a request by al-Qiq transferred to a Palestinian hospital in Ramallah, which reportedly argued that if the detainee was released, efforts to detain him in the future would “endanger soldiers’ lives.”

“This sort of argument obviously cannot justify continuing to hold al-Qiq in HaEmek Hospital contrary to his express wishes. The fact that the court accepted this argument says more about the justices than about the reasonableness of the claim,” Eyad said.

The director of the rights group said such argument was testament to “the long history” of High Court justices as “serving as a rubber stamp for administrative detention orders.”

Eyad said said the use of the word “whims” by Israeli Justice Elyakim Rubinstein to describe al-Qiq’s requests to be transferred to the Ramallah hospital also made it “difficult to attribute any serious legal meaning to the ruling.”

Eyad pointed to Netanyahu, as head of Israel’s executive branch, to “bring about the only possible moral outcome in the current state of affairs -- namely, the immediate release of Muhammad al-Qiq.

“You bear responsibility for al-Qiq’s life. I urge you -- I implore you -- to order al-Qiq’s immediate release before it is too late,” Eyad said.

Al-Qiq’s lawyers have yet to see “secret” evidence that the journalist is reportedly being held for, and have repeatedly failed to reach agreements for his release.

Hanan al-Khatib, a lawyer from the PA Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, told Ma’an Thursday that al-Qiq’s health was continuing deteriorate at a dangerous rate.

“He can’t move his body, he has difficulty breathing, and the pain is getting worse and worse,” al-Khatib said.

Israel has negotiated in cases of hunger strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners in the past out of fear that prisoners’ deaths could spark unrest, but Palestinian Prisoners’ Society head Qadura Fares told Ma’an last month that Israel had "nothing to lose" by failing to release al-Qiq before his death.

Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails have acted in solidarity with al-Qiq throughout his strike, with detainees in the Eshel prison saying Thursday that they would retaliate if al-Qiq dies before being released.

Al-Qiq has refused to take salt or minerals and is only drinking water, maintaining to continue his strike until he is released.

“Palestinian journalists including myself are paying the toll of a racist Israeli policy,” al-Qiq wrote in a letter last month, 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.
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