Israeli high court refuses to end hunger striker’s detention

Published February 17th, 2016 - 08:00 GMT
Mohammed al-Qiq's wife, Fayha Shalash and her son Islam, on 31 January, 2016  (AFP/File)
Mohammed al-Qiq's wife, Fayha Shalash and her son Islam, on 31 January, 2016 (AFP/File)

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday rejected a petition of Palestinian Muhammad al-Qiq in his 84th day of a hunger strike to be free of administrative detention.

Stating that it had reviewed classified evidence showing that he was "unmistakably an active Hamas agent involved in operational terror," the High Court said it would not allow his release, even as Qiq was close to death's door.

Rather, the court said that "at the end of the day, the petitioner holds the key to his health and well-being in his own hands, he and no other" if he continues to refuse to eat in protest of the administrative detention.

The decision follows numerous attempts by the High Court to reach a compromise with Qiq to end his hunger strike against the administrative detention.

On Tuesday, Qiq refused an offer to be transferred to an eastern Jerusalem hospital, leaving the issue of his possible freedom hanging in the balance before the High Court of Justice following a heated hearing.

Qiq, 33, had requested through his lawyer that he be transferred to a hospital in Ramallah. He currently is hospitalized in HaEmek Medical Center in Afula.
On Tuesday, Qiq’s attorney told the High Court that the hunger striker rejected the offer to be transferred to al-Makassid, a Palestinian hospital in eastern Jerusalem. Deputy President Elyakim Rubinstein said the High Court would make a decision soon.  The High Court had offered its proposal on Monday. The east Jerusalem hospital agreed to receive Qiq if he authorized the transfer.

“There is no difference between Afula and al-Makassid hospital for al-Qiq,” Ahmad Abu Muhammad of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society in Bethlehem told Ma’an. “If he decides to go to Jerusalem, they will take him, put two or three soldiers by his bed. It will be exactly the same.”

According to IDF military court decisions obtained by the Jerusalem Post, part of the controversy was that Qiq, a known journalist, was extensively questioned by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) without uncovering sufficient evidence to bring him to trial.

Despite that finding, West Bank Military Appeals Court Judge Ronen Atzmon on January 13, ruled that the classified evidence he was shown outside of the presence of Qiq’s lawyers proved that he was dangerous and involved in planning dangerous operations.

Atzmon said that the explanations about deriving that intelligence-style evidence was detailed enough to approve continued administrative detention. This was even as the main publicly reported evidence has focused on incitement charges, which is not typically sufficient for administrative detention, and as Qiq explained that his connections with Hamas members were in his capacity as a journalist.

The Palestinian Maan news agency reported Monday that Hanan al-Khatib, a lawyer with the Palestinian Authority Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, said in a statement that Qiq was suffering sharp pain in his chest and numbness in his face. He also had begun “shouting loudly, and screaming ‘Let me hear my son’s voice, please God,'” the statement said.

Qiq reportedly is at risk of heart attack, stroke and total systemic failure. He has refused all treatment and has taken only plain water, refusing the infusion of minerals.

Earlier this month, the High Court suspended Qiq’s detention due to his failing health from the hunger strike and offered to release him by May 1 if he halted his hunger strike. Qiq reportedly responded that he would not accept an offer unless it ended his detention immediately and allowed him to be treated in a Palestinian hospital.

Qiq, who worked as a reporter for a Saudi television news station, has said he will continue the strike until “martyrdom or freedom,” according to Maan. He is protesting being held by Israel in administrative detention since November 24.

Under administrative detention, a prisoner can be held for six months without being charged or tried. The order can be renewed indefinitely.

On Sunday, 16 senior Hamas operatives jailed in Israel announced that they had launched a hunger strike in solidarity with Qiq.

Qiq has been jailed by Israel before, including a month in 2003 and 13 months in 2004, the French news agency AFP reported. In 2008, he was sentenced to 16 months on charges linked to his activities on the student council at the West Bank’s Birzeit University, according to AFP.

by Yonah Jeremy Bob

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