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Former hunger-striking prisoner Malik al-Qadi returns home

Oct. 2, 2016 10:36 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 3, 2016 2:31 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of friends, family members and supporters celebrated on Sunday the return home of Palestinian prisoner Malik al-Qadi, who was released from Israeli custody on Sept. 24 after conducting a 68-day hunger strike.

The head of the Association for Freed Prisoners in Bethlehem, Muhammad Hamida, said in a statement that celebrations started on the main road near al-Ubeidiya east of the city of Bethlehem, as al-Qadi arrived from Ramallah after spending a week in the hospital recovering from his more than two-month hunger strike.

Al-Qadi met with Sanaa Balboul, the mother of Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul, two Palestinian prisoners who ended their respective 77- and 79-day hunger strike the same day al-Qadi.

"The meeting was very emotional," Hamida said.

Celebrators then marched to al-Qadi's home in the Hindaza area in southeastern Bethlehem, where a number of speeches were delivered congratulating al-Qadi and his family and applauding Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, especially those holding hunger strikes.

"Al-Qadi triumphed in the battle of empty stomachs," Hamida said in a speech on behalf of Association for Freed Prisoners.

Al-Qadi ended his hunger strike on Sept. 21, along with Muhammad and Mahmoud Balboul, after an agreement with the Israel Prisons Service not to renew their administrative detentions.

The agreement set the release of Muhammad and Mahmoud al-Balboul to Dec. 8, while Malik al-Qadi was initially set to be released on Sep. 22, with all three of their administrative detentions not to be renewed.

The three had initially launched their hunger strikes amid a mass movement across Israeli prisons in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoner Bilal Kayid, who after 71 days suspended his hunger strike after striking a deal with Israel to end his administrative detention sentence. He was reportedly set to be released on Dec. 12.

Kayid was one of the most high-profile hunger strikers since Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq came near death during a 94-day hunger strike protesting his administrative detention order, before he was finally released in May.

Rights groups have claimed that Israel's administrative detention policy, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals based on undisclosed evidence, has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, students, and journalists.

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 August, 7,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 700 of whom were being held under administrative detention.

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