Palestinian lawyers boycott military courts; women prisoners begin protest steps

1,500 Palestinian political prisoners are today entering their fourth day of open hunger strike to achieve a series of demands in the Dignity and Freedom strike, including an end to denial of family visits, proper medical treatment, the end of solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial.

Inside the prisons, the strikers continue to be subjected to a series of repressive and punitive measures at the hands of the administration, including the denial of both legal and family visits, confiscation of clothing, blankets and personal items and removal of access to media, as well as frequent and punitive transfers and isolation for key strike leaders.  Marwan Barghouthi, the spokesperson of Fateh prisoners on the strike and a prominent imprisoned Palestinian political leader, was reportedly transferred once again, this time to solitary confinement in Kishon prison near Haifa.  Repression continued throughout the prisons overall, as a repressive force stormed Section 14 in Ofer prison, ransacking prisoners’ sections under the pretext of “inspection.”

Approximately 70 hunger striking prisoners were transferred to Ramle prison, including 40 from Hadarim and 30 from Nafha, Ramon and Ashkelon prisons.

Palestinian lawyers continued to boycott Israeli occupation military courts in response to the prohibition of legal visits for hunger striking prisoners. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society and Prisoners’ Affairs Commission announced the boycott as part of a series of measures being pursued by Palestinian lawyers to address this denial of the rights of imprisoned Palestinians.  On Wednesday, Tamim Younis, a lawyer with the Prisoners Affairs Commission and the brother of Karim Younis, a hunger strike leader and the longest constantly-held Palestinian prisoner, was denied access to his brother in Jalameh prison, while lawyer Shirin Iraqi was denied access to prisoners at Gilboa, confirming the ongoing denial of legal visits to the prisoners.

Additional prisoners continued to join the strike. Sidqi al-Maqt, the longest-held Syrian prisoner from the occupied Golan Heights, announced that he was joining the hunger strike in a letter read on al-Mayadeen TV network. Released in 2012 after 27 years in prison, he has been re-arrested since 25 February 2015.

Palestinian women prisoners in HaSharon and Damon prisons also announced on Wednesday that they were entering into steps of protest in support of the collective hunger strike. The 53 women prisoners said that they will begin their protest steps by returning meals every 10 days and will escalate their participation if the hunger strikers’ demands are not met.  Khalida Jarrar, former prisoner and a leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, emphasized that “the women prisoners cannot be separated from the prisoners in general, especially as they experience difficult living conditions and many are ‘flowers’ (minor girls).” She noted that the strike included several demands of particular importance to women prisoners, including private transportation on the “Bosta” and an end to the denial of family visits.

Jarrar noted that there are several severely wounded and disabled Palestinian women imprisoned, including Israa Jaabis, who lost most of her fingers, and Abla al-Aedam who continues to suffer from a severe traumatic head injury. Jarrar noted that “the prisoners derive their steadfastness and resolve from the breadth and volume of the solidarity they receive,” urging broad action and international political and popular work to support the prisoners.

Strong popular solidarity with the prisoners continued to be felt throughout Palestine and internationally as marches and solidarity tents for the prisoners continued in Arraba, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Haifa, Gaza, Jenin, Salfit, Arroub camp, Dheisheh camp, Brussels, Vienna, London, Rome and numerous Palestinian, Arab and international locations.

Iman Nafie, a former prisoner and the wife of Nael Barghouthi, the longest-overall imprisoned Palestinian prisoner whose sentence of life plus 18 years was recently re-imposed by an Israeli occupation military court, emphasized the importance of popular, official and political support for the prisoners. “This step of struggle needs support from the outside on local, regional and international levels. The hunger strike of the prisoners is an important event with global repercussions,” said Nafie in Asra Media.

Latifa Mohammed Naji Abu Humeid, the mother of four prisoners, the brothers Nasr, Nasser, Mahmoud and Sharif, all from al-Amari refugee camp, began an open hunger strike on Wednesday in support with her children and all of the hunger strikers in Israeli jails.

Na’ama Abu Khader, the mother of the prisoner Ahmad Abu Khader from the village of Silat al-Zuhr south of Jenin, also entered a solidarity strike in support of her son and fellow Palestinian prisoners. “I decided to join the strike in support of the prisoners and their just demands. They are held in the cemetery of the living – the occupation kills them every day in those prisons,” she said.

Solidarity strikes were also announced by international supporters, including a Black 4 Palestine activist in New York, who said “I am hunger striking today in support of Palestinian liberation and self-determination, in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners and those under occupation. I stand and fight against the actions of the Israeli state and police department, and against Zionism and imperialism.”

In Algeria, a number of civil activists announced their own hunger strike on 18 April in support of the strikers to express their “unconditional support for the struggle of the Palestinian people and the steadfastness of the Palestinian prisoners, and to show them they are not alone.” 27 Algerian activists joined the action in support of the prisoners.