Israeli Court Freezes Administrative Detention Order for Hunger-striking Palestinian Prisoner

MRI shows Palestinian hunger-striker suffered brain damage; Israel earlier Wednesday promised to release Mohammed Allaan if any permanent neurological damage was found.

Jonathan Lis
Shirly Seidler
Jack Khoury
Ido Efrati
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Protesters in support of Mohammed Allaan, Haifa, August 18, 2015.Credit: Rami Shlush
Jonathan Lis
Shirly Seidler
Jack Khoury
Ido Efrati

Israel's High Court has frozen the administrative order for the detention of Palestinian prisoner Mohammed Allaan on Wednesday evening.

According to the court ruling, Allaan would remain in the intensive care unit at the Barzilai Medical Center, and if it is discovered that he suffered neurological damage, the administrative order would be revoked altogether.

Allaan's condition has deteriorated on Wednesday, and doctors have decided to put him under full sedation again. His condition is currently stable. Earlier Wednesday, the state said that Allaan's damage was to be found to be irreversible, he would be released from detention.

Allaan's relatives and friends will be able to visit him at the Barzilai Medical Center as a patient, rather than as a detainee, in accordance with regular hospital orders.

The court's order does not release Allaan from administrative detention – it simply freezes the order for the period of his treatment. When his condition stabilizes, Allaan may petition authorities to be transferred to another hospital. The response to that will be at the discretion of the court.

The court's ruling is a compromise. On the one hand, the judges froze the order, fearing criticism against the Israeli judicial system should Allaan die while under administrative detention. On the other hand, the judges haven't revoked the order completely so as not to signal a surrender to the hunger strike. 

The Adalah Center and Attorney Jamil Khatib, who filed the petition to release Allaan, said in response to the ruling that "though the court accepted the petition, it only did so once Allaan's case became cruel and vindictive, and he has reached the verge of death." 

An MRI examination showed that Allaan indeed did suffer irreversible neurological damage as a result of vitamin deficiency, medical officials said on Wednesday. Hours earlier, the state said he would be released if his medical condition deteriorates to an extent that renders him permanently incapacitated.

State representative Attorney Yochi Gnessin said earlier Wednesday that "If it turns out that the detainee is in an irreversible and permanent medical cognitive situation that will not enable him to resume his activities, the state will announce that the arrest warrant will become void immediately."

Dr. Hezi Levi, the director of the Barzilai Medical Center, said that at this point he cannot say if the damage is reversible or not. "Regardless of this damage, he is in danger. We've been saying it all along," he said.

Health system officials confirmed that Allaan’s cognitive functioning took a turn for the worse Wednesday morning, which does not enable him to make decisions. Allaan, who has been on a hunger strike for over 60 days, was confused and his thinking is incoherent as of Wednesday morning, said the sources. His doctors still do not know whether this is a temporary situation, or will be long lasting - and he is being examined by a psychiatrist.

According to the state's representative, Allaan's attorney tried to communicate with his client in his room for 17 minutes, but failed to elicit a response. The court discussion is set to resume soon, after the results of Allaan's cognitive test are received.

Allaan's lawyers said earlier Wednesday that because of the deterioration of his medical condition, they were unable to speak with him about the Israeli government’s offer to release him from administrative detention  at the beginning of November. The head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society Kadora Fares said “in Allaan’s present condition the Israeli offer is no longer relevant.” Fares called for his immediate release.

The deterioration in his medical condition started after his doctors took him off the inhalator and anesthesia on Tuesday. He was reported to be conscious and able to communicate, and in stable condition on Tuesday.  The doctors are uncertain as exactly why his medical condition has taken a turn for the worse. One possibility is that he suffered brain damage from a continued lack of Vitamin B1, which could cause neurological problems in the brain.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Wednesday that he is "strictly opposed to all the proposals for the release of the terrorist Allaan." According to Erdan, "his release would be a prize for the hunger strike he initiated and may lead to mass hunger strikes among the security detainees, after they discover a new tool with which to extort the State of Israel." He added that "terrorism is fought with determination, and one doesn't go looking for compromises." 

Allaan, a 33-year-old attorney from the village of Einabus in the West Bank, was put on administrative detention for six months in November 2014. The detention has since been extended. He was arrested after Israeli security services received information that he was allegedly involved in terrorist activities with Islamic Jihad operatives. Security officials said the intelligence against Allaan, who has previously served time for enlisting suicide bombers and assisting wanted persons, was of considerable scope and "serious."

Allaan has been on a hunger strike for over 60 days, in protest of his detention without trial and without being charged. He is hospitalized in Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, after being moved from the intensive care unit in Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva, where he was brought in critical condition.

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