Seven Palestinian prisoners have now spent over thirty years in Israeli prisons, with four marking the beginning of their 31st imprisoned year this weekend.
Rushdi Hamdah Mohammed Abu Mukh, 55, and his cousin, Ibrahim Nayef Hamdan Abu Mukh, 56, are both serving life sentences, imprisoned since 24 March 1986. Walid Nimer As’ad Daqqa, 56, has been imprisoned since 25 March 1986, while Ibrahim Ahmad Bayadseh, 55, has been imprisoned since 26 March 1986. All four were members of the same Palestinian resistance group, who captured and killed an Israeli occupation soldier in Netanya in 1985, demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. They were also accused of receiving military training from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Syria.
All of them were scheduled for release in 2014, but the last group, including 26 prisoners, were suddenly refused release by the Israeli state. As Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association noted at the time:
However, historically speaking, this policy of prisoners releases has proven that it is not truly a “goodwill gesture” to build trust during negotiations, but rather is used as a tool by the Israeli government to manipulate the prisoners issues and distract from their core issues and demands. These 104 pre-Oslo prisoners were slated to be released as a pre-condition in previous negotiations that Israel has reneged on. Now, many of them serving more than 25 years in prison, and some of them with their sentences almost completed, as expected to be released in phases over the next year. However, this decision, will be determined by the Israeli government, who will decide the “condition, criteria, dates and phases” of the release, thereby controlling the entire process.
The refusal to release the 26 prisoners confirmed the accuracy of the analysis. Three other Palestinian prisoners have spent over 30 years in prison: Karim Younis, 56, imprisoned since 6 January 1983; Maher Younis, imprisoned since 18 January 1983; and Mohammed Al-Tus, imprisoned since 10 June 1985.
Riyad al-Ashqar of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies said that the Abu Mukhs, Daqqa and Bayadseh are considered leaders of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and elders within the prisons. Daqqa has authored a number of books and studies inside prison, and along with Bayadseh, achieved a masters’ degree in political science. The demand for the release of all pre-Oslo prisoners is a unified call of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement; their release has been blocked multiple times by political maneuvers of the Israeli state.