Palestinian prisoner protesting administrative detention suspends hunger strike after 71 days

Published August 25th, 2016 - 06:00 GMT
Palestinian protestors hold posters of Bilal Kayed, protesting his administrative detentio at Damascus Gate, a main entrance to Jerusalem's Old City. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Palestinian protestors hold posters of Bilal Kayed, protesting his administrative detentio at Damascus Gate, a main entrance to Jerusalem's Old City. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayid has suspended his hunger strike after spending 71 days without food to protest being held in administrative detention by Israel, prisoners’ rights group Addameer General Director Sahar Francis announced on Wednesday.

Kayid went on hunger strike in June after Israeli authorities sentenced him to administrative detention -- internment without trial or charges -- on the day he was scheduled to be released from prison after serving a 14-and-a-half year sentence.

Francis said that Kayid suspended his hunger strike after reaching an agreement with Israeli authorities to end his administrative detention at a specific date. Francis declined to release further details on Wednesday, stating that a press conference would be held on Thursday to disclose further information.

However, anonymous Palestinian sources said that the agreement set the date for Kayid’s release to December 12.

The announcement came the same day as a protest in support of Kayid in occupied East Jerusalem was repressed by Israeli forces, who violently assaulted the demonstrators at Damascus Gate in the Old City before detaining three.

Kayid has been hospitalized after his health severely deteriorated due to his hunger. However, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) has kept him shackled to his hospital bed and has had guards surrounding him at all times, policies the Palestinian Prime Minister’s office said amounted to “torture.”

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) “saluted Kayid for his fight against administrative detention which lasted 71 days.”

PPS called on Palestinians to keep supporting four other prisoners on hunger strike -- Malik al-Qadi and Ayyad al-Hreimi, who have been on strike for 40 days; Muhammad al-Balboul who has been on strike for 49 days; and his brother Mahmoud Balboul, who has been on hunger strike for 52 days.

Kayid is one of the most high-profile hunger strikers since Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq came near death during a 94-day hunger strike protesting his administrative detention order, before he was finally released in May.

Scores of Palestinian prisoners have joined a large-scale solidarity movement with Kayid and other prisoners on hunger strike to denounce their administrative detention.

The movement has been met by an equally massive crackdown mostly on prisoners affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) -- the party to which Kayid is affiliated -- by the IPS, which has conducted multiple raids, cell block closures, confiscations of personal property, and transfers of detainees in attempts to quell the strikes.

Israel’s policy of administrative detention, which allows Israel to detain someone without trial or charge, is almost exclusively used against Palestinians and has been widely criticized by rights group which have accused Israel of using the policy to erode Palestinian political and social life by detaining scores of Palestinians without proof of wrongdoing.

According to Addameer, as of July, 7,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 750 of whom were being held under administrative detention.

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