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Amnesty alarmed by health condition of hunger-striking prisoner Muhammad al-Qiq

Feb. 22, 2017 10:19 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 23, 2017 12:56 P.M.)
A Palestinian holds up a poster depicting Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq. (AFP/Abbas Momani, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Human rights NGO Amnesty International expressed alarm on Wednesday over the health condition of Muhammad al-Qiq, a Palestinian prisoner on his second prominent hunger strike.

Amnesty said that it had been informed that al-Qiq had been transferred to the medical center of Ramle prison on Wednesday after going 17 days without food.

“(Al-Qiq’s) lawyer believes this is an indication that Muhammad’s health condition has deteriorated,” Amnesty stated. “Muhammad must be immediately transferred to a civilian hospital and receive the specialized medical treatment he requires.”

Al-Qiq's lawyer, Khalid Zabarqa, told Ma’an on Sunday that he had finally been allowed to visit the hunger striker, who he said was being held in a small “grave-like” cell without sheets or winter clothing to protect him from the cold.

Israel was deliberately imposing tough detention conditions on al-Qiq to coerce him into ending his hunger strike, Zabarqa stated, adding that al-Qiq was suffering from dizziness, loss of balance, and back pain.

Amnesty said that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) had rejected Zabarqa’s previous request to transfer al-Qiq to a hospital.

Al-Qiq, who lives in Ramallah and is originally from Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, was released from prison in May last year after having gone without food for a grueling 94 days -- to protest his administrative detention at the time.

However, al-Qiq was redetained in mid-January after he participated in a protest demanding the release of bodies of slain Palestinians held in Israeli custody, and once again placed under administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges.

Amnesty called on Israeli authorities “to release Muhammad al-Qiq and all others who have been placed under administrative detention, unless they are promptly charged with an internationally recognizable crime, in proceedings that adhere to international fair trial standards.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) expressed on Tuesday its “high concern” for al-Qiq.

“MADA calls all human rights organizations and all bodies concerned with freedom of expression and media freedoms to put pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities to immediately release al-Qiq, and to stop arresting Palestinian journalists over the course of their work, and to stop the Israeli policy of arbitrary administrative detention without charges,” the organization said in a statement.

Al-Qiq’s previous imprisonment by Israel -- widely condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other rights groups -- and subsequent hunger strike cast a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, its arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinians, and the concerted targeting of Palestinian journalists.

Al-Qiq was one of a number of prominent Palestinian hunger strikers in 2016, who included the Balboul brothers who went without food for 77 and 79 days, Malik al-Qadi for 68 days, Bilal Kayid for 71 days.

While Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals, 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.

Rights groups have claimed that Israel's administrative detention policy has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists.

According to Addameer, as of January, 6,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 536 of whom were being held under administrative detention.
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