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Demonstrations in Palestine, around the world say ‘Free Khader Adnan!’

Feb 22, 2012

Update: On Feb. 21 the Guardian (Britain) reported that Adnan had agreed to end his hunger strike in exchange for his release from detention on April 17.

Adnan, like hundreds of other Palestinians, was arrested under a military order that Israel has named “administrative detention.” It allows prisoners to be held without charge or trial for periods of up to six months, in spells that can be renewed indefinitely!

Sahar Francis is a lawyer with Addameer, a prisoner rights group based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, and a member of Adnan’s legal team. She visited the hunger striker in Ziv hospital in Safad, Israel, on Feb. 17. She described her client, who remains shackled to his hospital bed, as “mentally perfect, but physically very weak.” (Al-Jazeera, Feb. 17)

After examining Adnan on Jan. 29, the organization Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) said: “His clothes were dirty. His finger(nails) were not trimmed for a long time, and he started to lose his hair. ... His body odor was unpleasant, and (he) lost a third of his weight.” The group said he “suffers from chest pains, and feels he has days, maybe hours, to live.” The Jan. 29 examination was the only medical contact Adnan has had since he was arrested. (Philadelphia Independent Media Center, Feb. 10)

Amidst widespread demonstrations and protests, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both called on the Israeli authorities either to release Adnan or immediately charge him with criminal offences and have him tried. The U.S., which likes to tout Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” has been silent. Recently Congress passed, and President Obama signed, a bill giving the U.S. military similar powers of detention, even for U.S. citizens.

With the military’s case against prisoners kept secret from both the defendant and legal teams, defending clients under administrative detention is incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

Palestinian captives inside Israeli prisons frequently refer to the 10 republican prisoners in Northern Ireland, led by 27-year-old Provisional Irish Republican Army member Bobby Sands, all of whom died after long hunger strikes in 1981. Sands, who was elected to the British Parliament during his fast, died after 66 days of refusing to eat. The revolutionary intransigence of these brave men and others, and other organised actions, were believed to have improved prisoners’ conditions and made gains for their nationalist cause.

Since the rise of a Palestinian nationalist movement in the late 1960s and 1970s to combat Israeli occupation, hunger striking has been a common tactic among Palestinian prisoners that, according to Addameer’s Francis, has frequently succeeded in improving the conditions of their incarceration.

Stories such as Sands’, says Abu Maria, another Palestinian activist who has suffered arrest and abuse at the hands of the Israelis, “made us think that hunger strike is the only way a prisoner can resist.” (Al-Jazeera, Feb. 17) n

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UPDATED Feb 26, 2012 10:51 AM
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