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Palestinian prisoners’ families protest ICRC visit cuts in East Jerusalem

Aug. 18, 2016 2:12 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 18, 2016 5:15 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- The families of Palestinian prisoners from occupied East Jerusalem protested on Wednesday in front of the main office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah to protest the organization’s reduction of prisoner visits.

The families carried pictures of their relatives detained by Israel and denounced ICRC’s decision to reduce family visits to male Palestinian prisoners from two times a month to just one.

Demonstrators were reportedly prevented from entering the ICRC building, before Israeli police forces, escorted by police dogs or on horseback, came to disperse the crowd.

An ICRC official told Ma’an that the Sheikh Jarrah office was closed to the public on Wednesday and Thursday but that employees were otherwise working, before calling for respect of ICRC premises and staff.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners head Amjad Abu Asab said that Israel Prison Service (IPS) staff had assaulted five Jerusalemite prisoners at Nafha prison on Wednesday for protesting the ill treatment of relatives coming to visit them.

The five prisoners were identified as Samer Rajbe, Ammar Rajbe, Osama Rajbe, Abada Dandis and Nafeth Gharouf.

According to families’ testimonies, Abu Asab said that a number of Israeli officers escorted by dogs assaulted the five prisoners -- identified as Samir Rajbe, Ammar Rajbe, Osama Rajbe, Abada Dandis, and Nafith Gharuf -- in the visitation hall in front of their families at the end of Wednesday visitations.

The prisoners were handcuffed, and IPS threatened their relatives to ban them from family visitations if they didn’t immediately leave the premises..

Nafha IPS staff also reportedly made other Jerusalemite prisoners’ families wait in the prison courtyard for a long period of time before letting them in the visitation hall, or told them that their imprisoned relatives didn’t want to see them before forcing them to leave or risk getting detained themselves.

The demonstrators held ICRC responsible for Israeli violations against them and their imprisoned relatives.

ICRC has been a target of protests in recent weeks after the group reduced family visits as a cost-cutting measure, claiming that there wasn’t a great enough demand for second monthly visits.

Last month, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) denounced ICRC’s decision, calling it a continuation of suppressive procedures imposed on prisoners by Israeli authorities, and saying that the NGO did not consult with Palestinian officials or prisoners’ families before implementing the change.

PPS said the reduction in family visits constituted a move against a right obtained by prisoners after a 35-year long struggle, adding that it increased the suffering of families of prisoners.
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