Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by two Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in protest at being held without charge. But in its decision, released by the justice ministry on Monday, the court said security authorities should consider freeing them for medical reasons.
The two prisoners, Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahleh, 34, have been on hunger strike for the past 70 days. “The Supreme Court refused both appeals,” Jamil Khatib, their lawyer, told the AFP news agency on Monday of the prisoners’ appeals against their administrative detention. “Israeli courts do not handle administrative detention in a positive way. It shows that the intelligence services have the final word. “They will continue their strike till the end,” Khatib said.
A ruling on the appeals was postponed after being lodged at Israel’s highest court last Thursday, WAFA, the Palestinian News and Information Agency reported last week.
The two men are among hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to demand better conditions and an end to detention without trial in one of the biggest prison protests in years.
Ten Palestinian prisoners participating in the mass hunger strike were placed under medical supervision on Saturday as their conditions worsened, a spokeswoman for Israel’s prison service previously said. At least 1,550 are taking part, although activists have said the figure is as high as 2,500 out of 4,600 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Most of those participating began refusing food 19 days ago, but a smaller core have been striking for periods ranging from 40 to almost 70 days.
Hundreds of Palestinians held rallies over the weekend to demand the prisoners’ release. On Monday, there was a small group of protesters outside the Ofer prison where the hunger-strikers are being held, Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry reported.
Diab was moved to a civilian hospital last week. An independent doctor with Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) said then that he was at immediate risk of death. Both Diab and Halahleh, were suffering “acute muscle weakness” which prevented them from standing, Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner rights group, said via PHR-I. Halahleh was arrested on June 28, 2010 and has been held in administrative detention ever since, while Diab has been held since August 17, 2011.
On Friday, a Hamas leader warned Israel of consequences if any of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike die in jail. “You must realise that the hunger strike isn’t a party, and we could be surprised by the death of some of them,” Khalil al-Haya said in Gaza City. “If that happens, you can expect both the expected and the unexpected from us.”
Administrative detention is an antiquated procedure that allows suspects to be held without charge for periods of up to six months, which are renewable indefinitely. Israeli officials say they use the procedure to hold Palestinians who pose an immediate threat to the country’s security. “The Israelis will say that this is a matter of their national security, that these are security-related prisoners, and so therefore they argue to the Israeli Supreme Court that they do not need to disclose what these prisoners have done, because they are security prisoners,” our correspondent said. “The issue here really in the occupied territories is the numbers: the numbers of those who have been detained in the past years is huge, some 250,000 Palestinians have made their way through the Israeli detention centres. “So when you grow up here in the occupied territories, you are faced with that reality,” Perry said.