Growing battle in Ofer prison confronts administrative detention, demands freedom for Nidal Abu Aker

Nidal Abu Aker, Palestinian leftist, community leader in Dheisheh refugee camp and journalist, was seized on Monday, 1 August in a violent assault on his home in the camp by Israeli occupation forces. Just days later, on 9 August, he was ordered jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention for six months. Now, Palestinian prisoners in Ofer prison are taking action against the policy of administrative detention.

Administrative detention orders are issued on the basis of claimed “secret evidence,” concealed from both Palestinian detainees and their lawyers. These orders are indefinitely renewable, and Palestinians — including Abu Aker — have been repeatedly jailed for years at a time without ever being charged or tried. Khalil Awawdeh, the Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike for 161 days, is jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention, and many of the hunger strikes have been focused on ending this policy. From January through June, all administrative detainees engaged in a collective boycott of the military courts, and now a new escalation is being pursued to make this policy untenable.

On Tuesday, 9 August, 20 prisoners in Ofer prison returned their meals, with a statement that a collective open hunger strike in protest of the detention of Abu Aker and his fellow detainees is being prepared if he is not released.

Abu Aker, 54, was seized by occupation forces only 75 days after he was last released from nearly two years (23 months) jailed without charge or trial in administrative detention. When he was taken to interrogation, he was told by the occupation interrogator that is “natural place is in the prisons” and that he would not be permitted to see his son’s upcoming university graduation, which prompted him to declare that he would launch a hunger strike. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said that an open hunger strike will begin with 20 prisoners, including Abu Aker, and expand to include administrative detainees of all political organizations in the prisoners’ movement.

Abu Akar, 54, has spent approximately 20 years in total in Israeli occupation prisons — 15 of those under administrative detention — and has participated in multiple hunger strikes against administrative detention, including the 2015 Battle of Breaking the Chains. In his last period of detention without charge or trial for nearly 2 years, he was imprisoned with his son Mohammed and his brother Raafat. He was first imprisoned from 1982 to 1987, then pursued during the great popular Intifada before being arrested again.

In 2002, he was attacked by a force of “mustaribeen,” occupation forces disguised as Palestinian civilians, who attacked him at the gas station where he was working. His administrative detention was renewed 14 times — overall, he was jailed without charge or trial for five years under repeatedly renewed detention orders.

A refugee from Ras Abu Ammar in Palestine ’48 whose family has lived in Dheisheh refugee camp since being forcibly displaced there during the Nakba, Nidal is married to Manal Shaheen and the father of three children, Mohammed, Dalia and Karmel. A prominent leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, he is also the host of a program about Palestinian prisoners called “In their cells” on Sawt al-Wihda radio station and a co-founder of the Families of Prisoners Association in the camp.

The National and Islamic Movement in Ofer Prison called for solidarity, stating that “We look forward to the widest solidarity, media, public, institutional and human rights support for our just struggle, and we are confident that you will spare no effort to support us.”

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges all Palestinian and Arab communities and supporters of Palestine to answer this call and organize to support Nidal Abu Aker and his fellow prisoners confronting administrative detention, including Khalil Awawdeh, on hunger strike for the past 161 days. We urge all friends and supporters of Palestine to mobilize, organize, protest and act to break the attempted isolation of Palestinian prisoners and to demand their liberation – and the liberation of Palestine and its people, from the river to the sea.