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Autopsy reveals Palestinian prisoner died of heart condition after years of medical neglect

Sept. 26, 2016 5:46 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 27, 2016 11:24 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- An autopsy has confirmed the cause of death of 41-year-old Palestinian prisoner Yasser Thiyab Hamduna, who died in Israeli custody Sunday morning, was cardiomegaly, a condition in which the heart is enlarged and can lead to sudden cardiac death.

A statement from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs released on Monday announced the cause of death following the autopsy. Initial reports indicated the prisoner had died of either a stroke or a heart attack.

The Committee said that the autopsy of Hamduna’s body was carried out in the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv with the participation of two Palestinian doctors -- Ashraf al-Qadi and Rayan Ali -- as was ordered by the Israeli central court the day prior.

Two lawyers from the Committee, Iyad Misk and Karim Ajwa, also attended autopsy.

Hamduna's body is reportedly to be returned to his family on Monday. He is from the village of Yaabad, in the northern occupied West Bank district of Jenin

The Committee’s statement reiterated the accusation that Hamduna faced deliberate medical negligence by Israeli prison authorities and doctors, who were aware of the fact that he had been suffering from a number of health issues, including shortness of breath, heart problems, and ear pains.

He was severely beaten by prison guards in 2003 after his imprisonment in June that year, and had since been taken to the al-Ramla prison clinic a number of times after his health deteriorated, where lawyers and prisoners’ rights groups familiar with the case said he was routinely denied adequate treatment.

He finally underwent a cardiac catheterization surgery in Israel’s Afula hospital in January 2015, and continued to remain in a serious health condition after being denied the necessary medical checkups and was only provided anticoagulant medication as treatment.

According to the Palestinian prisoners’ solidarity network Samidoun, during his internment inside Israel’s Nafha prison, Hamduna had also gone on hunger strike in protest of his medical neglect and being held in isolation.

Hamas spokesman Abd al-Rahman Shadid said in a statement on Sunday that Hamduna’s death “showcased the Israeli occupation’s cruel brutality,” affirming that no Palestinian prisoner held in Israeli prisons or jails was safe.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri meanwhile urged the international community to “quit dealing in double standards and hold the (Israeli) occupation responsible for the violations and neglect of Palestinian prisoners who suffer in Israeli jails.”

Palestinian prisoners held by Israel also announced on Sunday a three-day hunger strike in protest and mourning following the news of Hamduna’s death.

The Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs reported that Israeli prison forces had raided a number of sections in Nafha prison and assaulted Palestinian prisoners, following a protest by the detainees over Hamduna’s death.

Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs head Issa Qaraqe said on Sunday that Israel bore full responsibility for Hamduna’s death, calling for an international investigation into Israeli crimes against Palestinian prisoners.

“This is a new crime to add to the numerous Israeli crimes committed against Palestinian prisoners,” he added, stating that 55 Palestinian prisoners had died in Israeli custody since 1967 due to medical neglect.

According to the Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS), a total of 208 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons since 1967, with another eight dying shortly after being released due to medical negligence while in Israeli custody.

Israeli prison authorities have routinely come under criticism for their medical neglect of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, a “deliberate policy of neglect” has been maintained by Israeli prison authorities, “denying their responsibility in providing appropriate health care, and periodic medical checkups for prisoners and detainees.”

In August, a number of Palestinian rights organizations established a committee to follow the cases of Palestinians in poor health being held in Israeli prisons.

The organizations’ officials said that more than 700 Palestinian prisoners were suffering due to poor medical access, 150 of whom reportedly in serious health conditions requiring “immediate medical intervention.”

The Palestinian Prisoners' Center for Studies had previously estimated that some 1,000 sick Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons.

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