Two more Palestinian prisoners join hunger strike as al-Qeeq’s health deteriorates

Mohammed al-Qeeq’s health is deteriorating as he nears two weeks on hunger strike. The imprisoned Palestinian journalist has been refusing food for 13 days to demand his freedom from administrative detention, Israeli imprisonment without charge or trial. Al-Qeeq’s lawyer, Khaled Zabarqa, noted that his health is more fragile due to his 94-day hunger strike conducted last year when he was previously imprisoned by Israel under administrative detention, securing his freedom in May 2016. He is held in isolation in Jalama prison.

Al-Qeeq was rearrested by Israeli occupation forces on 16 January as he returned home from a demonstration in Bethlehem demanding the return of the bodies of Palestinians killed by occupation forces. He was held in interrogation and ill-treated for 22 days before being ordered to administrative detention.

Al-Qeeq was joined by two more Palestinian prisoners who launched a hunger strike on Thursday, 16 February against their own administrative detention without charge or trial. Jamal Abu Leil and Raed Mteir launched their hunger strike after both of their detention orders were renewed for the third time. Abu Leil, a former member of Fateh’s Revolutionary Council, was first seized by Israeli occupation forces on 14 February 2016, while Mteir, head of the Qalandiya Youth Center, was seized on 17 February 2016. Both have been issued six-month administrative detention orders for three consecutive times and are from the Qalandiya refugee camp.  Both are held in the Negev desert prison.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate issued a statement on Thursday declaring that the targeting of al-Qeeq is an example of the continued clear targeting of journalists for imprisonment and repression by the occupation. It further noted that Zabarqa said that al-Qeeq cannot get out of bed due to deterioration of his health or come to the visiting room; when he inquired about why al-Qeeq was not taken to hospital, he was told this was a decision of the prison infirmary and was then denied permission to visit al-Qeeq in his isolation room.

Nasser Abu Bakr, president of the PJS, called upon all institutions to take action to save al-Qeeq, facing the violation of his freedoms in accordance with a racist policy meant to break the will of Palestinian journalists.

The PJS also denounced the arrest of Hammam Mohammed Hantash, a Palestinian journalist from Dura near al-Khalil, and called on international institutions and the International Federation of Journalists to call for his release and that of all Palestinian journalists in Israeli jails.

Al-Qeeq, Abu Leil and Mteir are among over 520 Palestinians held without charge or trial under administrative detention, and 7,000 total Palestinian prisoners. Administrative detention orders are indefinitely renewable and Palestinians can be held for years at a time without charge or trial.