Hunger striking Palestinian journalist on brink of death: lawyer

Published January 25th, 2016 - 12:48 GMT

Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike in Israeli jail for 61 days, is on brink of death, the journalist's lawyer told Ma'an.

After a visit with al-Qiq on Monday, Ashraf Abu Sneina, a lawyer from the Palestinian Authority's commission of detainees and ex-detainee affairs, said al-Qiq is unconscious and cannot speak, adding that he has exhibited "sudden symptoms that could lead to his death."

The head of the committee, Issa Qaraqe, accused Israel of “reckless and indifferent treatment of al-Qiq,” which stems from “a decision by the extremist Israeli government and its intelligence to let him die.”

The 33-year-old journalist from the southern West Bank town of Dura has been on hunger strike to protest his administrative detention -- internment without trial or charge -- since Nov. 24.

Qaraqe called on all appropriate organizations and human rights groups to exert every means available to pressure Israel to free al-Qiq, "because if he dies as a martyr, the situation will deteriorate both among Palestinians inside and out of Israeli prisons."

“Israel has to be aware that it will pay a heavy toll if Muhammad dies in custody,” Qaraqe said.

While possible evidence against al-Qiq is still being withheld, Amnesty International reported on Jan. 23 that the military judge at the Ofer Military Court said the file against him “accuses him of ‘incitement,’ of working with media associated with Hamas, a Palestinian political faction with an armed wing, and also of being a ‘threat to the security of the area.’"

Following the report, Mahmoud Ulayyan, a member of Gaza's journalism union, said he believes al-Qiq is inarguably being held due to his work as a journalist, and that Palestinian journalists urgently need protection from the "continuous Israeli violations" launched against them.

In their report, Amnesty International demanded that Israel either release or charge al-Qiq, who the group said has been mistreated and tortured in ways that violate international law.

On Jan. 19, medical rights group Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), said the group had found that doctors in HaEmek Hospital in Afula, where al-Qiq is being treated, were "forcing treatment upon (al-Qiq) and pressuring him to end his hunger strike."

PHRI called on doctors to stop the "forced treatment" and respect international human rights law, which says hunger strikers cannot be forced or pressured to intake food or supplements.

The group said the hunger striker had been "hooked up against his will to an infusion of salts and vitamins, and blood was taken with the permission of the hospital's ethics committee."

"Al-Qiq was tied to the bed and forcefully held down by prison wardens while a member of the medical staff made the infusion. For four days al-Qiq remained tied to the bed, hooked up to the IV drip, while pleading for its removal, to no avail," the group said at the time.

Eventually doctors did remove the drip, however PHRI still said that their actions "contradict(ed) the World Medical Association's declarations on hunger strikers, to which medical personnel in Israel are committed, including the Malta Declaration which forbids both applying pressure to end a hunger strike and forced medical treatment."

Last week, Israeli media reported that the chairman of the Israeli Medical Association World Fellowship announced at an Israeli Knesset meeting that 71 UK doctors had called on the World Medical Association to expel the Israeli Medical Association from the body, claiming that Israeli doctors have carried out “medical torture” on Palestinians.

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