Israeli Court Rules Hunger-striking Palestinian Journalist to Remain in Jail

High court says, however, it will continue to follow Mohammed Al-Qiq's health on a daily basis.

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Palestinian demonstrators near Ramallah demand release of hunger-striking Palestinian journalist Mohammed Al-Qiq (portrait) from Israeli jail, January 22, 2016.
Palestinian demonstrators near Ramallah demand release of hunger-striking Palestinian journalist Mohammed Al-Qiq (portrait) from Israeli jail, January 22, 2016. Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury

The High Court of Justice suspended Wednesday its deliberations on a petition submitted by hunger-striking administrative detainee Mohammed Al-Qiq against his continued detention. The court said it would wait to receive updates about his medical condition before resuming hearing his case. Al-Qiq enters the 65th day of his hunger strike on Thursday.

If his condition deteriorates, the state will inform the court and submit its position on his continued detention.

The decision was made at the end of a hearing before Justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Zvi Zylbertal and Daphne Barak-Erez. The petition focused on two issues: the grounds for the administrative detention, and the petitioner’s hunger strike, which began almost immediately after he was arrested. 

Regarding his administrative detention, the justices ruled after examining classified material that there were grounds for the state’s position that Al-Qiq is suspected of recent military activity; of being involved in the activities of Alkutleh al-Islamiya, a Hamas student group at Bir Zeit University; and of having military connections with operatives in the Gaza Strip. Therefore, with regard to the grounds for detention, the court said, “We saw no basis for intervening in the decisions of the military courts. We got the impression that the intelligence evidence is significant.”

The legal adviser of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, Jawad Boulous, described the decision as “strange,” adding that it meant the court is pressuring the prisoner to stop his hunger strike and doesn’t plan to intervene until he has lost consciousness. “This is an option that is very far from justice,” said Boulous.

At the same time, Physicians for Human Rights accused Wednesday the Ha’emek Hospital in Afula, where Al-Qiq is hospitalized, of blocking a visit by one of the group’s volunteer doctors that was scheduled for Thursday. According to the group’s announcement, on January 11 it had submitted an urgent request to the Israel Prison Service to allow an independent physician to visit him. The request to the prison service was made after the hospital said it was not authorized to approve such a visit.

PHR claims that after the visit was coordinated with the prison service, the hospital said it could not allow the visit because it did not have an appropriate doctor to accompany the visiting physician at the scheduled time. The group argued that not only was the presence of a Ha’emek doctor unnecessary, it contravened privacy rules. “International codes of ethics stress the importance of an examination by an independent physician to creating a trusting relationship with the hunger striker in the effort to reach a life-saving solution,” the group said.

The group also argued that Al-Qiq’s condition is getting worse and that delaying the visit could endanger his life. The group added that over two weeks had passed since its request to the prison service; moreover, under the Patients' Rights Law a hospital must do what’s necessary for the patient to realize his right to see a physician of his choice.

Ha’emek Hospital rejected the criticism, saying the visit had been approved and they had no objections to it; all they had asked was to coordinate it so that the medical team treating Al-Qiq could be available in the ward to answer questions regarding his treatment.

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