Bilal Kayed: History of Struggle in Prison

The following history of Bilal Kayed was compiled by Handala Center for Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners, translated by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network:

Bilal Kayed was arrested on 14 December 2001, accused of participating in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and in resistance operations carried out in the second Intifada. He was subjected to harsh and lengthy interrogation for nearly two months. He refused to provide any meaningful information to the occupation interrogators, was charged in military court and sentenced to 14 and one-half years in Israeli prisons. He has now had an additional order of six months’ administrative detention imposed upon him at the moment of his scheduled release.

He has been active inside the prisons in leading and organizing Palestinian prisoners and confronting repression by the Israeli prison administration since early 2002, when the prison administration prevented family visits, and engaged in daily raids, transfers and assaults on prisoners, escalating after the invasion of Palestinian cities and the increasing number of Palestinian prisoners.

After his interrogation, he was transferred to Megiddo prison, where he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine organization inside the prisons, and dealt with the crises experienced by every new prisoner in line with their reality, realizing the new basis of their struggle.

He was committed to organizational and cultural work, and became a leader by virtue of his commitment and personality; he is very social and has a strong ability to communicate others and organize activities and cultural events.

After a little over a year in Megiddo prison, he was transferred to Hadarim prison, then again after several months transferred to Gilboa prison. In Gilboa prison, he emerged as an effective, active and essential cadre who developed his potential, contributed to the collective life in the prisoners, and became part of the group of prisoners who addressed issues with the prison administration, and also a member of the ongoing national dialogue among the national and Islamic forces in prison, in relation to the open hunger strike of 2004.

Kayed was transferred on multiple occasions between Gilboa, Ramon, Beersheba, Ashkelon and Nafha prisons, including periods of isolation, and transferred again in 2012 to Megiddo prison, where he remained for three years, actively working on the reception and support of new prisoners, and one of the most prominent cadres inside the prison.

In August 2015, he was transferred to isolation in Ashkelon prison, and then to isolation in Beersheba prison, and finally to isolation in Ramon prison.

His father died in February 2015; he had been denied family visits for some period before that time, and Bilal was prohibited from seeing him before his death.

During his time in prison, Bilal has dedicated extensive time to study; he learned English, Hebrew and French with a high degree of skill, and was in the process of learning German when he was transferred to isolation in 2015. He has written a number of articles and creative pieces while imprisoned, and is seeking to pursue further education.

Bilal was part of the dialogue and discussion among Palestinian political forces in the prisons in preparation for the 2004 hunger strike, which lasted for 18 days, and was heavily involved with various initiatives and struggles between 2004-2011 against the prison administration’s repression of prisoners. He sought, together with his comrades, to raise the profile of the prisoners’ struggle, and develop the prisoners’ movement in confrontation of the prison administration and its repressive practicess. This made him a consistent target for sanctions by the prison administration.

He was part of the prisoners’ leadership committee in several prisons, and he participated in the organizing, planning and carrying out of the hunger strike conducted by the PFLP organization in Israeli jails in September 2011, in protest of the policy of isolation and in particular, the solitary confinement of PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat and leader Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh. The open hunger strike lasted 21 days, and Bilal was an active participant.

The strike had an impact on Bilal’s health, as he suffered head and stomach aches for months following. He was subject to medical negligence, delays in diagnosis and provision of necessary medical care. Despite this experiene, Bilal did not hesitate to become involved in organizing and preparing for another strike in solidarity with isolated prisoners and for family visits for prisoners from Gaza, which had been denied for three consecutive years.

He was part of the leading dialogue and discussion among prisoners, which resulted in the agreement to conduct a collective open hunger strike beginning on Prisoners’ Day, 17 April 2012, named the Karameh (Dignity) strike. This strike lasted for 28 days, which were not Bilal’s last days on strike; for the next several years he participated in multiple hunger strikes, including in 2015 in Megiddo prison against denials of family visits, and in 2015 and 2016 in protest of solitary confinement and isolation.

The policy of solitary confinement was a major catalyst for the strike of 2012, and when its scope was widened to over two dozen isolated prisoners, Bilal was among them. He was returned to isolation in August 2015, in Ashkelon prison, where cells are very narrow with poor conditions. He was ordered to six months in isolation, and then transferred to isolation in Beersheba prison. He has now been transferred, in continued isolation and under an administrative detention order to the Ramon prison, despite the completion of his 14.5 year sentence on 13 June 2016, threatening a dangerous precedent.

This is a rare case, in which a prisoner is ordered to administrative detention after serving 14 and a half years in prison. Once informed of the administrative detention order, he launched a hunger strike, supported by his imprisoned comrades, who have announced a program of struggle including a collective hunger strike of over 300 prisoners to demand Bilal’s release, whose battle is considered to be one for all prisoners threatened with a similar transfer to administrative detention following the completion of their sentences.