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Palestinians celebrate prisoner Bilal Kayid's 'victory' after ending hunger strike

Aug. 25, 2016 5:58 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 29, 2016 9:12 P.M.)
(File)

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayid, who ended his 71-day hunger strike on Wednesday, will be released from Israeli custody on December 12, prisoners’ rights group Addameer announced in a press conference on Thursday, with Palestinian officials hailing the agreement marking the end of Kayid’s strike as a “victory” over administrative detention.

Addameer General Director Sahar Francis said that an agreement was reached on Wednesday between Kayid’s lawyer Mahmoud Hassan and the Israeli military prosecution to release him in December upon completion of six months in administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges.

Francis added that the Israeli prosecution had suggested that Kayid be exiled from Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory for four years as part of the agreement, before backing down on the proposal over Kayid’s deteriorating health.

Kayid has been transferred to the intensive care unit of the hospital after his health further worsened in the past week, when he refused all vitamins and only drank water. The prisoner has reportedly been suffering from intense chest and kidney pains, regular fainting spells, and a deterioration of his sight and ability to move.

Kayid will reportedly stay at the hospital until his health fully recovers, Francis said.

Meanwhile, Issa Qaraqe, the head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, said that the agreement marked a “victory” for Kayid over Israeli administrative detention and a victory for all Palestinians, proving that “administrative detention is an illegal and punitive procedure by Israel against the Palestinian people.”

“Israeli authorities wanted to exile Kayid to another country without any legal justification, but Kayid’s determination to gain back his freedom forced Israel to back down on this decision” Qaraqe added.

Kayid went on hunger strike in June after Israeli authorities sentenced him to administrative detention on the day he was scheduled to be released from prison after serving a 14-and-a-half year sentence.

His case has sparked a wave of support both among the prisoner population and the broader Palestinian public, with scores of prisoners launching hunger strikes in solidarity with Kayid and other prisoners on hunger strike to denounce their administrative detention.

The movement has been met by an equally massive crackdown mostly on prisoners affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) -- the party to which Kayid is affiliated -- by the IPS, which has conducted multiple raids, cell block closures, confiscations of personal property, and transfers of detainees in attempts to quell the strikes.

Mahmoud Kayid, Kayid’s brother, spoke at Thursday’s press conference of the struggle and pain their family went through during Kayid’s hunger strike, and called for the entire Palestinian people to stand together with hunger strikers, not based on political affiliation, criticizing the absence of “enough popular support” for Kayid during his ordeal.

“It is very shameful for one prisoner affiliated to a certain party to go on hunger strike and other prisoners don’t support them because they are affiliated to other parties,” he added, advocating for massive hunger strikes by all prisoners instead of the individually organized hunger strikes.

Francis said that the struggle continued to end the administrative detention of other Palestinian prisoners Mahmoud and Muhammad Balboul, who have been on hunger strike since July 1 and July 4 respectively; Ayyad Hreimi, and Malik al-Qadi, who have both been on hunger strike since July 11.

“This Israeli policy is very dangerous and must be fought by all Palestinian rights organizations, prisoners’ rights societies, Palestinian political officials and international society,” she said. “Israel must be held accountable for committing war crimes, violations and administrative detention imposed on Palestinians. Israeli assault and abuse of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons such as Kayid must also be stopped.”

Meanwhile, in the besieged Gaza Strip, members of the PFLP organized a celebration in Kayid’s honor on Thursday in Unknown Soldier Square in Gaza City, distributing candy and calling for the release of other Palestinian prisoners.

Allam al-Kaabi, a PFLP central committee member, said during the event that Kayid’s victory exposed the failure of arbitrary Israeli procedures against Palestinian prisoners.

“The Israel Prison Service has no chance of standing in the way of PFLP leaders who are willing to go all the way to defend Palestinian people’s freedom and prisoners’ rights” he said, before denouncing what he called the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) “neglect” of the prisoners’ cause.

Israel’s policy of administrative detention, which allows Israel to detain someone without trial or charge, is almost exclusively used against Palestinians and has been widely criticized by rights group which have accused Israel of using the policy to erode Palestinian political and social life by detaining scores of Palestinians without proof of wrongdoing.

According to Addameer, as of July, 7,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 750 of whom were being held under administrative detention.

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