The Israeli Prison Service responded to criticism that it was withholding legal counsel from hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners on Thursday, by saying that the prisoners right s to an attorney was conditional on their getting out of bed to ask for a meeting with a lawyer.
The prison service was responding to a letter several human rights groups together with Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent the service’s legal advisor, criticizing the organization withholding counsel from the prisoners, as a way to pressure them to stop their protest.
The organizations said they would appeal to the Israeli High Court if the issue isn’t settled immediately.
According to the prison service’s spokeswoman Sivan Weitzman: “A prisoner who is interested in holding a meeting with an attorney needs to physically get up and tell the prison authorities he wants to attend the meeting.”
200 leftist and human rights activists demonstrated outside the Ramleh Prison on Thursday in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. Ramleh Prison is home to the prison service medical clinic, which is currently providing medical care to ten prisoners that are on hunger strike.
Bilal Diab, an administrative detainee who began his strike much earlier was rushed to Assaf Harofeh Hospital on Tuesday when his condition deteriorated.
Doctors for Human Rights said that the lives of four prisoners, who have been on hunger strike for the past 59 to 67 days, are still at risk.
Admir, an NGO that works to ensure prisoner rights appealed to the High Court on Thursday on behalf of the two prisoners who have been on hunger strike the longest Diab and Khalkhala. The appeal is against the Military Governor of the West Bank and the State of Israel’s decision to administratively detain them. During the court hearing Diab collapsed and was treated by MK Dr. Ahmed Tibi, who was present. Diab was returned to the hospital. The court will issue its decision in the next few days.
In a statement, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) said that "a man's right to meet with a lawyer for the sake of receiving professional services is not in question. IPS policy states that this right should also be awarded to those on hunger strike. Many of the striking prisoners say they are exhausted and claim they cannot get out of bed for any need."
"For further notice, this is the policy – every day a message will be published on the message board in the ward concerning the list of prisoners who have appointments to meet with lawyers. A prisoner wishing to leave for the consultation meeting must, on the day of the meeting, to physically rise and express his wishes to the ward's staff," the statement added.
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