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Israeli Supreme Court rejects appeal to release comatose Palestinian hunger striker

Sept. 13, 2016 10:00 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 14, 2016 3:42 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli Supreme Court Tuesday rejected an appeal to release hunger-striking prisoner Malik al-Qadi from administrative detention -- internment without charge or trial -- as the 25-year-old entered the 59th day of his strike.

While an Israeli court issued a suspension of al-Qadi’s administrative detention on Friday, just a day before the hunger striker reportedly slipped into a coma, the Israeli Supreme Court refused an appeal by al-Qadi’s lawyer to completely release him from administrative detention.

Lawyer Ahlam Haddad told Ma’an that the rejection by the Supreme Court was the second such one to be rejected by the Supreme Court, after another appeal to release al-Qadi was previously submitted by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs. The lawyers have been appealing Israeli courts to release al-Qadi due to his critical health condition.

On Saturday, al-Qadi’s mother was urgently summoned to the Wolfson Medical Center, where al-Qadi was reported to have slipped into a coma.

Executive Director of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) Abdullah al-Zhgari told Ma’an at the time that Israeli prison officials attempted to force treatment on al-Qadi in order to get him out of the coma, despite al-Qadi previously announcing his refusal to be treated during his strike regardless of his health condition. Al-Zghari told Ma’an on Saturday that he feared al-Qadi could die at any moment.

A day after Israeli authorities attempted to force treatment on the hunger striker, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that a law permitting Israeli authorities to force feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners was constitutional, after the court rejected several appeals filed last year by the Israel Medical Association (IMA) and by several human rights groups who argued the law contravened medical law and ethics regarding patients’ rights.

While the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Ma’an it abstains from commenting on court cases, one of ICRC’s spokespersons reiterated on Tuesday that the organization was “opposed to force feeding or any treatment which goes against a patient's wishes because it is essential that detainees' choices be respected at all times and their dignity preserved,” adding that forced feeding hunger strikers could mark a violation of international humanitarian law.

On Friday, an Israeli court temporarily suspended al-Qadi’s administrative detention, just one day following the suspension of the Balboul brothers’ detentions. In all three cases, the courts said the sentences would be suspended until their health conditions improved.

However, all three prisoners have steadfastly committed to their hunger strikes until they are completely released from administrative detention.

Brothers Mahmoud and Muhammad Balboul, who began their strikes on July 4 and 7 respectively, were permitted to speak with their family over the phone on Wednesday for the first time since they were taken by Israeli soldiers after a raid on their home on June 9, shortly before their younger sister Nuran, 16, was released after spending four months in Israeli prison.

As videos circulated throughout social media of Sanaa and Nuran speaking with Muhammad and Mahmoud, the brothers were visibly exhausted and gaunt, while Muhammad was shown to be suffering from temporary blindness. The brothers told their distraught mother and sister that they would continue their strike until Israel releases them.

Rights groups have claimed that Israel's administrative detention policy has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, students, and journalists. Sanaa told Ma'an she believed her children were targeted as a result of her late husband's political activities in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. He was shot dead by undercover Israeli forces in 2008.

Although Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.

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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