Israel’s high court today confirmed its refusal to free Muhammad al-Qiq, the gravely ill Palestinian journalist who has been on hunger strike for 84 days.
The judges held a closed session Tuesday morning, adjourned for several hours, and then issued their decision.
In response to the decision, al-Qiq reportedly told his supporters and his family to be “patient and steadfast.”
The Palestinian Prisoners Club, whose lawyers represent al-Qiq, sent a brief statement to media confirming the court’s rejection of al-Qiq’s request to be allowed to receive treatment in a hospital in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
The court’s hearing likely marked a last chance for al-Qiq, who is now too weak to receive visitors, according to sources at the hospital where he is being held.
Doctors have said that al-Qiq could die at any moment. By all accounts his life remains at imminent risk.
Yousef Jabareen, a member of Israel’s parliament for the Joint List, called the court’s decision a “death sentence.”
“Instead of canceling the administrative detention to save al-Qiq’s life, the court once again succumbed to the diktats of the security agencies and set aside humanitarian considerations,” Jabareen added in a statement sent to media.
Al-Qiq has vowed not to give up his strike unless he is freed.
On Monday, a video was circulated on social media showing al-Qiq in his hospital bed, crying out from severe pain.
Earlier on Monday, the high court rejected a petition from al-Qiq to be transferred to Ramallah, but it ruled that he could go to al-Makassed hospital in occupied East Jerusalem. It gave him until Tuesday to consider the offer.
But al-Qiq rejected the offer immediately, because it did not meet his condition to be released and go where he chooses.
Al-Qiq has insisted that he be allowed to return to the West Bank and receive treatment in a Palestinian hospital.
While the court considered its decision on Tuesday, Palestinian Prisoners Club attorney Jawad Boulos told media that Israeli military prosecutors had said in the hearing that they could not allow al-Qiq to go to Ramallah, where he would be outside Israel’s direct control, and could therefore represent a “threat” to its security.
Boulos said he responded that currently al-Qiq is not under guard at the hospital in Afula, in the north of present-day Israel, and is able to speak to whoever he wants, which would also be the case in Ramallah.
Boulos added that al-Qiq and his family had also agreed that he could be monitored by Palestinian Authority security for the remainder of his administrative detention period, which ends in May.
On 4 February, Israel’s high court suspended al-Qiq’s administrative detention but ordered him to remain in the HaEmek hospital in Afula to receive medical treatment.
But al-Qiq rejected the suspension, refusing to be treated by Israeli authorities as long as he was not free to leave. It is also unclear what the suspension meant in practice, since al-Qiq has remained effectively an Israeli prisoner.
Al-Qiq, who works for the Saudi news agency Al-Majd, began his hunger strike in November, shortly after Israeli authorities arrested him. Following his interrogation, Israel put him in administrative detention.
Human rights organizations and UN officials have called on Israel to charge or release al-Qiq, who is one of 660 Palestinians held without charge or trial under administrative detention orders handed down by a military court.