Palestinian prisoner to be released after 141 day hunger strike in Israeli jail

Husham Abu Hawash. Pic: Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK.

A Palestinian prisoner has ended his 141 day hunger strike after an arrangement was made for his release from Israeli custody.

Hisham Abu Hawash, a 40-year-old father of five and a construction worker in the West Bank, was imprisoned by Israel without any charges for more than four months.

Hawash ended his strike after his lawyer, Jawad Boulos, said that he will be released on February 26 without any charges.

He started his hunger strike last year in protest against Israel’s “administrative detention” system which allows the authorities to imprison people without any charges whatsoever.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club hailed the success of the hunger strike as a victory. The club  said that in the past Hawash has spent more than eight years in Israeli prisons, mostly under “administrative detention.” He has never been charged with terrorism and his lawyer insists he is innocent.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank had protested in support of Hawash and Islamic Jihad had threatened retaliation if he died in custody.

Daoud Shehab, Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement Secretary-General, had said: “If Abu Hawash is martyred, the PIJ will deal with the matter in accordance with its commitment to respond to any assassination. The movement would consider his martyrdom as an assassination carried out by the Israeli occupation with premeditation.”

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, an amalgamation of 57-Muslim majority countries, also expressed their “grave concern” over Hawash’s health condition.

Mr Hawash’s health concerns were flagged up after medical teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross found him to be “in critical condition requiring expert clinical monitoring.”

On Tuesday, when the deal for his release was struck between Israeli and Palestinian officials, the United Nations once again raised its concerns on “administrative detention.”

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said: “We think obviously the fact it’s been resolved is a good thing. We have, as a matter of principle, always been very clear in saying that people who are detained should be tried, charged and tried, in accordance with due process, or released. And that has been our position on administrative detention.”

Israel has used administrative detention to imprison thousands of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories since 1967, detaining them under military law for open-ended terms based on secret evidence. With no charges and no way to defend against them, lawyers can only petition the courts for their clients’ release.

Israel does not regularly release official numbers but the prisoner-rights group Addameer estimates that there are 500 Palestinians currently in administrative detention, including four minors.

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