Israeli authorities released Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq Thursday who came near-death in recent months during a 94-day hunger strike in protest of his administrative detention.
The release of the hunger-striker marks the end of his six-month administrative detention -- an Israeli policy of internment without charge or trial based on “secret” evidence that even a detainee’s lawyer is barred from viewing.
In a rare move, Israeli authorities released al-Qiq near the illegal Israeli Beit Hagai settlement that sits on the southern Hebron hills in the southern occupied West Bank, according to Ibrahim Najajra, director of the Ministry of Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Affairs in the Hebron district.
The family of al-Qiq, including his two children, excitedly waited for him at the Mitar crossing to welcome him back to his home in Palestine following his gruelling six month ordeal.
The 33-year old journalist from the northern occupied West Bank district of Ramallah was originally detained in November and initially embarked on his hunger strike to protest the torture and ill-treatment he faced in Israeli custody, but which soon developed into a demonstration against Israel’s internationally condemned policy of administrative detention.
Al-Qiq ended his 94-day hunger strike after his lawyer struck a deal with Israeli authorities toward the end of February. Although his immediate release was not granted, Israeli authorities agreed not to renew his administrative detention order and release the imprisoned journalist in May.
Al-Qiq’s imprisonment -- widely condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other rights groups -- and his subsequent hunger strike, which brought him to the brink of death, directed a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, its arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinians, and the concerted targeting of Palestinian journalists.
“They [Palestinian journalists] are now experiencing forceful and abusive detention because they have been the voice of human conscience, exposing crimes and oppressive practices of Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people,” al-Qiq said in a statement in late January.
“Palestinian journalists including myself are paying the toll of a racist Israeli policy,” al-Qiq wrote.
“When people are treated tyrannically, they are no longer worried about the consequences even if the toll is life. Thus, I entrusted myself in God’s hands and I will continue with this hunger strike, until martyrdom or freedom,” al-Qiq said in the statement.
Al-Qiq’s steadfast commitment to his hunger strike won him popular support among Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territory, as they marched, protested, and clashed with Israeli forces in shows of solidarity with the detained journalist.
All the while, al-Qiq’s health continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate, with his wife, Fayhaa Shalash, reporting to Ma’an in February that the hunger-striker had become “unresponsive.” A little over a week later, one of al-Qiq’s lawyers told Ma’an he started suffering from sharp chest pains, numbness in his face, and had begun "shouting loudly, and screaming: 'Let me hear my son's voice, please God."
Al-Qiq's family was barred from visiting him during his hunger strike, despite an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that Israeli authorities must allow family visits for the critically ill prisoner.
Israeli authorities were also accused of forcing treatment on the hunger-striker during his detention in a direct violation of medical ethics.
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