Death of former prisoner Mahmoud Suleiman highlights medical neglect in Israeli prisons

Mahmoud Suleiman upon his release

Palestinian prisoners are highlighting the danger of medical neglect or mistreatment for sick prisoners in Israeli jails and the long-lasting consequences, following the death of released prisoner Mahmoud Suleiman from Gaza in Egypt on 14 October, where he died during cancer treatment. Suleiman’s illness was discovered after he was released from Israeli prison in 2013 after 22 years of imprisonment and had not been treated while he was jailed.

Fellow former prisoner Allam Kaabi said that prisoners were subject to a “policy of slow death to neutralize their continued contribution to the Palestinian national cause,” noting that many prisoners and freed prisoners suffer from serious illnesses like cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. He also said that many prisoners are freed only to discover their illnesses.

Kaabi also said that the Israel Prison Service is not interested in providing robust health and medical services to Palestinian prisoners or creating an environment that supports their health, linking the prison environment to chronic illnesses impacting prisoners after their release.

Dr. Raafat Hamdouna of the Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies said that the Israeli state is responsible for the worsening of the condition of cancer patients, saying that their lives are disregarded and that a number of prisoners have cancer and fear the consequences of a lack of health care inside Israeli prisons. He also warned of possible environmental impacts that could have serious impact on prisoners’ health.

The Prisoners Affairs’ Commission said that Said al-Banna, 37, from Tulkarem, has suffered from bladder cancer for severl years. He received surgery a year and a half ago at Soroka hospital to remove the tumor; however, required follow-up examinations have been repeatedly postponed and he now receives only painkillers for medical treatment. Serving a life sentence, he has been jailed since 3 April 2002. The Commission also said that Nayef al-Mashni, 32, from al-Shuyukh village in al-Khalil, has been waiting to receive a sinus operation for over two years with no progress; he is serving a 19-year sentence and has been imprisoned since 11 August 2004.

Mohammed al-Tal, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council just released days ago from Israeli occupation prisons – leaving 12 Palestinian parliamentarians imprisoned by the Israeli occupation – said that he felt pain in his stomach after being detained for a month and was given only painkillers. He waited four months before receiving medical attention, when he was diagnosed with a tumor; his bile duct and part of the pancreas was removed, but only after lengthy delays and a denial that he needed treatment at all.

He also drew attention to the cases of some of the most severely ill prisoners, including Moatassim Raddad, who suffers from colon cancer and has permanent pain; Mansour Moqtada, who was severely wounded by Israeli occupation soldiers at the time of his arrest and who is dependent on a “plastic stomach” for digestion; and Khaled Abu Shawish.