Israel: Hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners escalate protests

Published January 16th, 2016 - 05:00 GMT

Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli Megiddo prison have reportedly escalated protests over being held in a "transfer" section for several weeks due to the detention facility’s overcrowdedness.

Palestine Prisoners’ Center for Studies spokeswoman Amina Tawil said in a press release that prisoners informed the Israeli Prison Service of their protest on Thursday.

The detainees then refused to return to their rooms and refused meals, during which some detainees were assaulted by prison personnel who forced them back into their cells.

Tawil added that the prison services had moved 10 prisoners to solitary confinement after they announced their open hunger strike. Those transferred included Amir Muhammad Ishtayeh, Ahmad Shaltaf, Kamel Hamran, Tawfiq al-Kharraz and Islam Bani Shamseh, all from Nablus.
 
Tawil said the prison services decided to impose strict sanctions against prisoners held in the "transfer" section of the Megiddo prison by cutting off electricity in whole section, banning prisoners from going out to the prison’s yard, searching rooms and confiscating prisoners’ possessions, clothes and covers.

Prisoners’ and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs Committee lawyer Hiba Masalha said Thursday that the Megiddo prison had declared a state of emergency after prisoners of Section 1 refused to move to other sections.

Masalha said 97 minors under the age of 16 held in Section 3 were being assaulted and humiliated.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International called on Friday for the release of a Palestinian circus performer who has been detained by Israel for a month and is currently held in the Megiddo prison.

Muhammad Faisal Abu Sakha, 23, was arrested on Dec. 14 at an Israeli checkpoint near the northern West Bank city of Nablus while on his way to work at the Palestinian Circus School in the town of Birzeit near Ramallah.

In addition to being a circus performer since 2011, Abu Sakha also trains children with learning difficulties at the Birzeit school.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Abu Sakha is currently being held in Megiddo. However, Amnesty said Abu Sakha’s family has not been able to visit him.

The Israeli army officially put Abu Sakha in administrative detention without trial or charge in late December.
 
“Administrative detention [...] has for years been used by Israel as an alternative to using the criminal justice system to arrest, charge and prosecute people suspected of criminal offences, or to detain people who should not have been arrested at all,” Amnesty’s statement read.
 
“Amnesty International believes that some Palestinians held in administrative detention by Israel are prisoners of conscience, held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association.”

According to prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, 660 Palestinians were held in administrative detention as of December.

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