Palestinian reporter negotiating end to hunger strike | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 20.02.2016
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Middle East

Palestinian reporter negotiating end to hunger strike

A Ramallah-based journalist who has been on hunger strike for 87 days is negotiating a move to a Jerusalem hospital. If he agrees to an imminent deal, Mohammed al-Qiq would end his hunger strike.

Mohammed al-Qiq, a 33-year-old journalist born in the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested by Israeli security forces on November 21 in Ramallah and placed under administrative detention - a policy that allows the army to detain people indefinitely and without pressing charges if authorities allege that they pose an immediate threat to the country's security.

A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told DW that "the detainee was placed in administrative detention due to his involvement and activism with the terror organization Hamas."

Al-Qiq's family and friends say, however, that he was locked up for his frequent criticism of the Palestinian Authority and its cooperation with Israel.

The journalist is currently at HaEmek hospital, in the Israeli city of Afula. Medical officials have confirmed that his health is deteriorating and that his body is growing weaker, though they say he is fully conscious and has clarity of thought.

Al-Qiq refuses to end his strike unless Israeli officials cancel the administrative detention order against him or allow him to be moved to a hospital in Ramallah.

Because of his medical condition, the Israeli Supreme Court suspended - but did not cancel - al-Qiq's detention at the beginning of February, but rejected his request to be transferred to Ramallah.

Instead, Supreme Court Vice President Elyakim Rubinstein offered al-Qiq's attorneys the option of moving him to a hospital in East Jerusalem. Al-Qiq rejected that offer, claiming through his lawyers that Israel did not guarantee not to detain him again after his health improves.

"Rubinstein's decision not to allow the detainee to move to Ramallah is extremely peculiar," said Jawad Boulus, an attorney for al-Qiq, "as on the surface he is supposed to be a free man."

The IDF stated that "if, after his recuperation, the detainee requests to leave the hospital, he will be required to contact the appropriate authorities and receive their permission" - meaning that he would most likely remain under the detention order.

Al-Qiq's lawyers had expressed hope that should he agree to the deal, the IDF would not renew the administrative order, and ultimately would let him go.


Palestinian journalists take part in a protest demanding al-Qiq's release

On Friday, officials at al-Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem announced that they were willing to accept al-Qiq for treatment, and his attorneys planned to present the offer to him Saturday in the hope that he would agree and thus end his strike.

'Charged or released'

Al-Qiq is not the first Palestinian to go on hunger strike to protest Israel's policy of administrative detention. However, his strike is considered to be quite rare: He refuses to put anything into his body besides tap water.

Last August Mohammad Allan called off his strike and was released for treatment after suffering severe brain damage caused by lack of vitamins and essential minerals following a two-month fast.

Samer Issawi was released from detention in 2013 after more than 200 days of intermittent fast and several hospitalizations.

Human rights groups and Nickolay Mladenov, the UN envoy to the Middle East peace process, have condemned Israel's policy of administrative detention. In a speech to the UN Security Council, Mladenov called "for all persons subject to administrative detention to be either charged or released immediately," according to a Reuters report.

In a statement, Amnesty International wrote that "as an unconvicted detainee, al-Qiq has the right to treatment by doctors of his choice. Given his critical situation, Israeli authorities must respect his wishes and transfer him to the hospital he has chosen without delay.

Protestkundegebung für die Freilassung des palästinensischen Journalisten Mohammed al-Qiq

A Palestinian man carries a placard during a demonstration demanding al-Qiq's release

Amnesty added that "Israeli courts have failed, over many years, to provide effective legal recourse to the thousands of Palestinian administrative detainees held without charge or trial on the basis of secret 'evidence' withheld from them and their lawyers, under orders that can be renewed indefinitely."

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