Bilal Kayed announced on Wednesday, 15 June that he had entered an open hunger strike to demand his freedom. Kayed, 35, was ordered to administrative detention on Monday, 13 June – just as he was scheduled for release from a 14 and one-half year sentence in Israeli prisons on charges of membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and participation in the Palestinian resistance in the second intifada.
Imprisoned since 14 December 2001, Kayed’s family was waiting to meet him on Monday – including his sister Suha, who flew home to Palestine from Germany to see her brother’s freedom – but instead were informed that he had been ordered to six months’ administrative detention without charge or trial. During his imprisonment – in which he was a leader among PFLP prisoners and in coordination between Palestinian factions – he was isolated in solitary confinement on multiple occasions and took part in several hunger strikes against isolation and repression in prison. Kayed is now one of nearly 750 Palestinian prisoners held in administrative detention without charge or trial.
In a press conference in Gaza, the PFLP’s Prisoners Committee noted on Wednesday that Kayed’s detention was a matter of concern to all Palestinian prisoners and an attempt to set a precedent for sending Palestinian prisoners to administrative detention immediately following their release from lengthy sentences. “This attack is part of the continued targeting of the prisoners’ movement and an act of revenge against influential leaders…who continue to be a source of inconvenience and concern for the occupation,” said Allam Kaabi, a former prisoner and leader of the committee. Kaabi announced that Kayed had launched his open hunger strike, demanding freedom and the cancellation of the administrative detention order.
PFLP prisoners in all Israeli prisons returned their meals for two days on 14 and 15 June, and are planning multiple additional hunger strikes and escalating protests, including with Palestinian prisoners from all political factions and affiliations, for Kayed’s immediate release. The National and Islamic Forces’ Prisoners Committee announced that it was organizing a series of protests and actions across the Gaza Strip in support of Kayed, and urged the Palestinian masses in Palestine and everywhere in diaspora to organize to demand Kayed’s freedom. They also demanded that international agencies, particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross, end its silence and confront the violations of prisoners’ rights, especially the administrative detention of Kayed.
The Handala Center for Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners reported that the Israeli prison administration was stepping up punitive actions against the striking prisoners, including imposing fines, prohibiting family visits for a month and confiscating electrical devices. Two prisoners participating in the two-day strike, Walid Daqqa and Haitham Alantara, were transferred from Hadarim to Ramon prison. Prisoners’ cells were invaded by repressive forces in Ramon and Ofer.
Palestinian and international groups are organizing in support of Kayed, with protests planned for the weekend in Berlin and Sakhnin, and organizing for actions on 24 and 25 June, the days of another 2-day hunger strike inside the prisons. Protests will take place in New York and other cities. Palestinian singer Mohammed Nawahdeh wrote a song in support of Kayed:
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1. For US Citizens or Residents – Urge your members of Congress to demand that Israel free Bilal Kayed immediately. Write to your representative here: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/urge-the-us-congress-to-demand-that-israel-free-bilal-kayed
2. Join the Call-In Day for Bilal Kayed on Friday, 24 June – Call the White House to demand Kayed’s immediate freedom. Call them at 001-202-456-1111 – and join the Facebook event to participate with others making the call – https://www.facebook.com/events/575578372603387
3. Join a protest for Bilal Kayed – in Berlin, New York, and many more cities to come. If you are in an organization, endorse the call to action for events on 24 and 25 June for freedom for Kayed.
4. Boycott, Divest and Sanction. Hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. Don’t buy Israeli goods, and campaign to end investments in corporations that profit from the occupation. G4S, a global security corporation, is heavily involved in providing services to Israeli prisons that jail Palestinian political prisoners – there is a global call to boycott it. Palestinian political prisoners have issued a specific call urging action on G4S.