The Prisoners’ Commission of the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces held a press conference on 12 January in front of the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza City, addressing two key issues for Palestinian prisoners today: the critical health condition of hunger-striking journalist Mohammed Al-Qeeq and the struggle for justice of former prisoner Omar Nayef Zayed in Bulgaria, who has taken asylum against an Israeli extradition request in the Palestinian embassy in Sofia.
Bulgarian officials are seeking to arrest Zayed at the behest of an Israeli extradition request; he escaped Israeli prison in 1990 after a 40-day hunger strike and subsequent hospitalization. Allam Kaabi, a former prisoner released in 2011 as part of the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange, spoke at the event, focusing on Zayed’s case, stating that “his case is a struggle and a political issue for the Palestinian national movement. It is about the rights of our people an their legitimate struggle against the occupation.”
He noted that Zayed is under a very serious threat that would create a dangerous precedent for Palestinians in Europe, especially former political prisoners who reside in European countries and cities. “He is not a criminal on the run from law or justice, but a struggler to defend his people,” said Kaabi. He urged the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria to commit to providing the highest level of protection for Zayed as their duty and responsibility. “Palestinian embassies around the world are the property of the Palestinian people, and their foremost responsibility is to serve and provide care for our people, wherever they are.”
He emphasized that this is not an individual issue but a collective issue of political, national and human rights, noting that the prisoners’ movement rejects any attempt to deal with Palestinian political prisoners as a matter of “criminal law,” and will spare no efforts to protect Zayed.
Kaabi also saluted the efforts of international campaigners working to support Zayed, as well as the Palestinian and international campaign in solidarity with Zayed and the work of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in organizing events and actions to highlight Zayed’s case in Europe and on an international level. He urged all friends of Palestine and supporters of human rights around the world and especially in Bulgaria and Europe as a whole, to exercise political and media pressure to protect Zayed and prevent his extradition.
Ahmad Herzallah, a former Palestinian political prisoner, spoke at the press conference on the case of imprisoned journalist and hunger striker Mohammed al-Qeeq, emphasizing that he has been on hunger strike for nearly 50 days and is facing a severe health crisis and being threatened with force feeding. Herzallah declared that, as in the cases of Khader Adnan and Muhammad Allan, his will would prevail over that of the jailer.
He urged greater action on Palestinian, Arab and international levels to highlight Al-Qeeq’s struggle and build solidarity for his strike, and to expose the violations of the rights of Palestinian prisoners carried out by the Israeli occupation. In particular, Herzallah urged action on the issue of administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, under which Al-Qeeq is held. He urged broad participation in the solidarity tent that will be erected in front of the ICRC office on Wednesday in support of Al-Qeeq.