Israeli court refuses to let dying hunger striker go

Palestinians hold a protest in support of hunger-striking journalist Muhammad al-Qiq in front of the Red Cross office in Gaza City on 14 February.

Mohammed Asad APA images

Israel’s high court ruled on Monday afternoon that Muhammad al-Qiq may not be be transferred to a hospital in the occupied West Bank, as he requested, offering instead that he be transferred to al-Makassed hospital in occupied East Jerusalem.

The court has given the gravely ill hunger striker until Tuesday morning to consider the offer and has set another hearing for that day at noon.

But al-Qiq immediately rejected the offer, according to his wife Fahya Shalash and his laywers.

Al-Qiq maintains that he will not end his hunger strike until he is freed and allowed to go to the West Bank.

The 33-year-old has consumed nothing but water for 83 days to protest his detention without charge or trial by Israel.

Sources at the hospital say that after 12 weeks of no food, there is a very small chance that al-Qiq could survive even if he begins treatment immediately.

On 4 February, Israel’s high court “suspended” al-Qiq’s administrative detention but ordered him to remain in the HaEmek hospital in Afula, in the north of present-day Israel, 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 remains effectively an Israeli prisoner.

In Monday’s hearing, the judges discussed that if al-Qiq was transferred to the West Bank, it would require military force to detain him again.

Judge Elyakim Rubinstein said, “The objective is to save his life, but we will not under any circumstances take him out of the borders of Israel.”

Free choice

Following Monday’s ruling, Jawad Boulos, al-Qiq’s lawyer at the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said that the court had failed to deal with the basic issue, “that the occupation prosecutors do not consider that the suspension of [al-Qiq’s] administrative detention turns him into a free person, but that his freedom can remain restricted.”

In his statement, emailed to media by the Prisoners Club, Boulos added that from the moment the court suspended the administrative detention order there remained no legal basis to obstruct al-Qiq’s movements. “For us the issue is not the place of treatment, but rather [al-Qiq’s] right to exercise his free choice, and going to al-Makassed hospital is not his choice,” Boulos said.

Al-Makassed hospital, located on the Mount of Olives, is the only Palestinian emergency hospital in East Jerusalem.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed it, a decision unanimously rejected by world governments and the United Nations.

In October, at the height of protests in Jerusalem and other parts of the 0ccupied West Bank, Israeli forces stormed the hospital for three straight days looking for Palestinian patients suspected of taking part in the protests.

Under an Israeli law held over from British colonial rule, hospitals are required to hand over information on patients deemed by authorities to be criminal suspects.

The practice makes patients at al-Makassed vulnerable to arrest.

But Israel’s military also regularly raids hospitals in other areas of the occupied West Bank, abducting patients from their beds.

Possible heart attack

On 13 February, Hiba Masalha, an attorney for the Palestinian Authority’s Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, reported, citing doctors at HaEmek hospital, that different parts of al-Qiq’s body had changed color and he was suffering acute pain in his chest, indicating that he may have had a heart attack.

However, doctors at the hospital have not been able to conduct any internal examinations as al-Qiq refuses treatment.

Sources close to the case, including al-Qiq’s wife, say that Israeli authorities have cut off all avenues for negotiations, making the high court the only authority which could end al-Qiq’s administrative detention.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club said last week that Israel was “not showing attention or willingness” to solve al-Qiq’s case.

In the 4 February ruling, the court wrote that because al-Qiq’s condition was so compromised – including severe neurological impairment – he did not require the “force of administrative detention.”

“As human individuals we wish him a full recovery,” the court wrote, adding, “he is the one who brought upon himself his own condition.”

However, the ruling left open the possibility that following a recovery al-Qiq could be placed under administrative detention again.

The court ruled that if al-Qiq wishes to leave the Israeli hospital he must file an appeal.

Attorney Jawad Boulos appealed to the high court to transfer al-Qiq to a Palestinian hospital in Ramallah, but Israel’s attorney general rejected the request on security grounds.

Last week, al-Qiq also rejected an offer by the Israeli military court that he be released on 1 May.

Al-Qiq refuses any offer short of his full, immediate release from administrative detention, and the guarantee that he will receive medical treatment from a Palestinian hospital, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs.

Administrative detention is based on secret evidence and allegedly used to prevent crimes that have not occurred.

In January, Amnesty International reported that an Israeli military judge stated that al-Qiq was being detained for “incitement” in the media, as well as being a “threat to the security of the area.”

Al-Qiq works for the Saudi news agency Al-Majd.

Human rights organizations and UN officials have called on Israel to charge or release al-Qiq, who is one of 660 Palestinians held in administrative detention.

Dena Shunra and Ali Abunimah contributed translation.

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The steadfastness of Muhammad al-Qiq now inspires the worldwide movement for Palestinian freedom. In his name we redouble our efforts, and in the name of all those who have fallen, are imprisoned by the apartheid state, or live in exile.

Support full application of BDS. Free Palestine.

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Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.