Palestinian wins freedom after 64-day hunger strike

Palestinian hunger strikers (File)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  July 8, 2021

Ghadanfar Abu Atwan suspended his hunger strike protesting his detention without charge or trial by Israel on Thursday, after refusing food for 64 days.

His administrative detention will expire and he will be released on Thursday his lawyer said, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

Members of Abu Atwan’s family celebrated the outcome:

Israeli occupation forces arrested the 28-year-old last October and issued him a six-month administrative detention order.

Administrative detention is the British colonial-era practice of holding people for prolonged periods without charge or trial. Israel continues to use it routinely against Palestinians to repress political activity and any resistance to its military rule.

Detainees are held based on supposed “secret” evidence that neither they nor their lawyers can see.

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, the policy is a serious violation of international law that may amount to a war crime.

Abu Atwan launched an open-ended hunger strike on 5 May to demand his release from Ramon prison in southern Israel.

Israeli authorities then subjected him to solitary confinement for two weeks. He was beaten, physically assaulted and injured “without any regard to his medical condition,” according to the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council.

Abu Atwan’s health deteriorated rapidly, and 50 days into his strike he was taken to Kaplan Medical Center, an Israeli hospital.

He has been seriously ill and faced the risk of permanent disability or sudden death, doctors said more than two weeks ago, according to the Palestinian human rights groups.

The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council had filed an urgent appeal over his case with United Nations Special Procedures – independent human rights experts mandated to investigate and act on such abuses.

Israel never charged Abu Atwan or tried him even in its rigged military court system where there is a nearly 100 percent conviction rate against Palestinians.

In fact, the military court rejected all appeals against his detention, including during his last hearing on 31 May.

Several days later, Abu Atwan declared he would start refusing water as well.

“My life is withering before my eyes,” Abu Atwan wrote in a letter.

“This occupier is imposing on me a slow death at Kaplan hospital,” he added, signing off as a “martyr-to-be.”

He reportedly also refused salt, supplements and vitamins, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

Abu Atwan had previously spent two years in Israeli prisons without charge or trial.

On Monday, two months into his fast, the European Union office in the occupied West Bank said it was “concerned” over Abu Atwan’s rapidly deteriorating health.

But the muted and belated statement did not condemn Abu Atwan’s detention or call for his release – it merely stated that detainees “have the right to be informed about the charges underlying any detention and be subject to a fair trial.”

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada