Palestinian student leader suspends hunger strike; interrogation extended for eight more days

Omar Kiswani and the scene of his arrest at Bir Zeit University

Palestinian student leader Omar Kiswani suspended his hunger strike after 14 days, according to Palestinian lawyer Mamoun al-Hashem of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society. The occupation court in the Moskobiya detention center extended his detention for another eight days on 2 April under the pretext of completing his interrogation.

Al-Hashem said that Kiswani, the president of the Bir Zeit University Student Council, suspended his strike due to exhaustion under constant, intensive interrogation. He has been under interrogation since being seized on 7 March by undercover Israeli occupation forces known as “mustaribeen” who invaded and then opened fire in the middle of the Bir Zeit university campus.

The Moskobiya detention center, where Kiswani is held, is notorious for ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian prisoners.

Al-Hashem had his first visit with Kiswani on 2 April after being denied access to an attorney since he was seized by occupation forces. He lost 13 kilograms while conducting his hunger strike. Kiswani told his lawyer that when he was arrested, he was punched and kicked by Israeli occupation soldiers, who also hit him with an electrified baton when they took him to a military camp.

He said that he was forced to sit on a chair for four hours without being allowed to drink water or use the bathroom before being taken to the Moskobiya interrogation center. Once detained in Moskobiya, he was regularly subjected to interrogation lasting for 18 hours a day without a break, forced to sit on an iron chair.

On the ninth day of his arrest, his mother was seized from the family home and brought to Moskobiya detention center. Kiswani was prohibited from talking to her but he was shown his mother from a distance as a means of pressure in an attempt to force him into a “confession.” His mother was later released on the same day.

Kiswani is one of approximately 340 Palestinian university students imprisoned by Israeli occupation forces, including more than 60 from Bir Zeit University alone. Every year in late March and early April, Israeli occupation repression directed at Palestinian students intensifies and grows as annual student council elections approach. The arrests are a form of Israeli intervention in and suppression of Palestinian student politics and organizing.

Ola Marshoud

One such Palestinian student, Ola Marshoud, 21, a student of information sciences at An-Najah National University in Nablus, was brought before the Salem military court on 2 April. the military court then adjourned the hearing until next Wednesday, 11 April. Marshoud was seized by occupation forces on 12 March after being summoned for interrogation; she was held in the Petah Tikva interrogation center under questioning for 21 days before being transferred to a prison with fellow female prisoners.