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Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network’s international coordinator, Charlotte Kates, presented on the struggle of Palestinian prisoners in the context of the Palestinian national liberation struggle on 16 March at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

At the event, organized by Students for Justice in Palestine Maastricht, Kates reviewed the current situation of Palestinian political prisoners, as well as the structural framework that sees mass numbers of the Palestinian people incarcerated in Zionist jails.

The event covered the process of violent arrest raids, interrogation and torture, administrative detention and military courts, and ongoing imprisonment, as well as the resistance of Palestinian prisoners through history and the leadership of prisoners in the national liberation struggle.

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Discussion highlighted the fact that political imprisonment is an issue for all Palestinians, including Palestinians in exile, noting the cases of Rasmea Odeh – a former prisoner now persecuted in the United States; the Holy Land Five; and Omar Nayef Zayed, killed in the Palestinian Embassy in Sofia while seeking refuge from extradition to Israel.

In addition, the event highlighted the repression of Palestinian and solidarity political activity not only inside Palestine, where political parties and movements are labeled “illegal organizations” by military order, but outside Palestine, where those same organizations are often labeled on US, Canadian and EU “terrorist lists,” and the grassroots movement harassed and attacked by repressive legislation. For example, the examples of anti-BDS legislation in the United States and the prosecution of BDS activists in France were highlighted alongside such cases as the imprisonment of Lebanese Arab communist struggler for Palestine, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah.

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The cases of specific Palestinian prisoners were discussed, including Mohammed Abu Sakha, the 24-year-old circus trainer held in administrative detention without charge or trial; Shireen Issawi, the Palestinian lawyer and activist imprisoned for helping Palestinian prisoners; Ahmad Sa’adat, Palestinian political leader; and Dima al-Wawi, the 12-year-old girl who is the youngest Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails.

One attendee, himself a former Palestinian prisoner, discussed the long-term impacts of torture and violent interrogation inside Israeli prisons, on both youth and adult prisoners. He also discussed the mass experience of imprisonment for Palestinians under occupation – 40% of Palestinian men in the West Bank have been detained by Israeli occupation forces – and its use to deny visas and travel to former prisoners throughout their lives, noting the case of Bassam Tamimi’s recently revoked US visitor visa. Questions and answers highlighted the use of administrative detention without charge or trial, the impact of political imprisonment and repression on Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the threat of force-feeding against Palestinian prisoners.

Students for Justice in Palestine Maastricht is planning future events in solidarity with Palestine, including actions and meetings focusing on the struggle of Palestinian political prisoners.