Sunday 23 October 2016

Palestinian prisoner ends 94-day hunger strike

Published 26/02/2016 | 11:36

Palestinian journalist prisoner Mohammed al-Qeq lying in a hospital bed at the Emek Medical Centre in Afula (AP)
Palestinian journalist prisoner Mohammed al-Qeq lying in a hospital bed at the Emek Medical Centre in Afula (AP)

A Palestinian prisoner has ended 94 days of his hunger strike after reaching a deal with Israeli authorities that says he will be released in three months' time, his family said.

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Mohammed al-Qeq, 33, began his strike on November 25 to win release from administrative detention, a practice that can keep some prisoners in custody without charges for an indefinite time. Israel says the tactic is an important security tool necessary to stop militant attacks, especially at a time of increased Palestinian violence.

Israel said Qeq - who has worked as a journalist for a Saudi media outlet and who also appeared as an analyst on channels connected to Hamas - has long been involved in militant activities linked to the violent Palestinian Islamic group. He has been under observation at an Israeli hospital and refused all treatment unless he is released.

Celebrations erupted in his home village of Dura, near Hebron in the West Bank, after his imminent release was announced. A dozen women chanted songs in Arabic praising Qeq and Palestinian militant groups.

Some family members set off a small crate of firecrackers into the air. Qeq's wife addressed reporters from underneath a makeshift tent decorated with posters of Qeq and Palestinian flags.

Both his wife and Kadoura Fares, the head of the Palestinian prisoners club, said Qeq had been fasting for 94 days.

"I feel very happy that finally we'll end this hunger strike with a very big victory for us and for him," his wife Fayha said, flanked by her son and daughter.

She said he ended his strike on Friday and will be released on May 21.

"He forced the Israeli forces to take this step and put an end for his administrative detention," she said. "It was terrifying moments ... these three months, and I think that this victory will be, Inshallah (God willing), a new beginning for our life."

The Palestinian prisoners club said the deal stipulates that Qeq will continue to be treated at the Israeli hospital until his release.

Israel's military said "following the end of Mohammed Qeq's hunger strike, he will continue to remain in custody until May 21. On that date the situation will be examined to determine whether there is new information or security circumstances which require extending detention".

The Palestinian government in the West Bank welcomed the deal.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat congratulated Qeq for his "victory over the warden, through his legendary steadfastness". He said Israel "had bowed to the demands of Qeq".

Israel has arrested Qeq in the past for his activities with Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza and that is sworn to Israel's destruction.

Palestinian prisoners have used hunger strikes before to draw attention to their detention without trial or charges. Fearing that a fasting detainee's death could spark more violence, Israel has at times acceded to hunger strikers' demands.

Medics for Human Rights-Israel, an advocacy group, said this week that Qeq has been on a hunger strike longer than any other Palestinian detainee or any of the participants in 1981 protest strikes by IRA prisoners held by Britain in Northern Ireland.

Qeq's fate was raised in recent top-level meetings, including talks on Sunday between Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and US secretary of state John Kerry.

Press Association

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