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Negotiations continue for release of Palestinian hunger striker

Feb. 20, 2016 10:18 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 26, 2016 10:59 A.M.)
Palestinians demonstrate for the release of Palestinian hunger-striker Muhammad al-Qiq. (MaanImages/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Negotiations have continued between Palestinian and Israeli officials over hunger-striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said Saturday.

Qadura Fares told Ma’an that Palestinian officials involved in the talks hoped to reach a compromise that would be accepted by al-Qiq and his family by tomorrow.

Fares added that there was “no guarantee” an agreement would be reached and said al-Qiq’s health remained in “serious danger.”

News of the ongoing negotiations came as al-Qiq entered day 88 of his hunger-strike in protest of his administrative detention without charge or trial by Israel. The 33-year-old father of two has continued to refuse essential minerals and is only drinking water.

The Palestinian Authority's Committee for Prisoners' Affairs in a statement Saturday applauded "efforts the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials to help save al-Qiq."

The committee said according to the potential agreement, Israel would release al-Qiq on May 21, 2016, and pledge not to place the journalist in administrative detention in the future.

Evidence reportedly connecting al-Qiq to the Hamas movement is still being withheld from his lawyers, and the detainee still does not know what offense he is being held for.

Political affiliation with the majority of Palestinian parties can be considered a “security offense” by Israeli authorities, and is often used as rationale for the detention of Palestinians.

Members of al-Qiq’s family told Ma’an during the earlier stages of his strike that they believe he is being held due to his work as a journalist.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this month to temporarily “suspend” al-Qiq’s detention due to his deteriorating health, but the conditional suspension required the detainee remain in Israel’s HaEmek hospital in Afula.

Al-Qiq has vowed to maintain his strike until transferred a hospital under Palestinian jurisdiction in Ramallah and released from Israeli custody, requests that were most recently denied by Israel's High Court of Justice earlier this week.

The court ruled instead that al-Qiq could be transferred to al-Makkasid, a Palestinian hospital in Jerusalem, a condition al-Qiq did not accept.

The duration of al-Qiq’s strike has surpassed that of strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners Khader Adnan and Muhammad Allan last year, whose refusal to eat eventually brought their release by Israel.

Amnesty International on Thursday said that the journalist’s strike “reflected what former Palestinian administrative detainees held by Israel said in the past: that faced with “detention without charges for an unknown -- and potentially unlimited -- duration, they saw refusing food as their only way of demanding their rights under international law.”

The rights group said it feared that that the Israeli authorities were using administrative detention as a “method of punishing” al-Qiq without prosecuting him, amounting to arbitrary detention.

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.

Officials from the European Union and United Nations have expressed concern over al-Qiq's deteriorating health, and demonstrations for his release have been held internationally and in the occupied Palestinian territories.
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