Northern Branch of Islamic Movement's Imprisoned Leader Embarks on Hunger Strike

Sheikh Ra'ad Salah protests solitary confinement and searches of cell, as part of what he termed humiliating treatment by prison authorities.

Jack Khoury
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Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, head of the recently banned Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, being brought to prison in May, 2016.
Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, head of the recently banned Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, being brought to prison in May, 2016.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Jack Khoury

Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, announced Sunday that he was launching a hunger strike to protest his being held in solitary confinement as well as what he called the prison’s humiliating treatment.

In May, Salah began serving a nine-month sentence in Rimon Prison on charges of incitement to violence for a sermon he gave in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz in 2007. Since entering prison, Salah has been isolated from the rest of the population and barred from meeting with other prisoners. Only his lawyers and immediate family members are allowed to see him.

In a statement transmitted through intermediaries, Salah said his decision to go on a hunger strike was prompted by the fact that prison authorities conduct frequent searches of his room at unconventional hours and have confiscated things he has written while incarcerated.

Salah is scheduled for release from prison in February. His trial went on for a number of years. Last year, while the legal proceedings were still in progress, Israel declared the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement to be an illegal organization. Most of the movement’s institutions, including charities and civil-society organizations, were closed down.

In a statement, the Israel Prison Service said that Salah’s decision to begin a hunger strike is a personal decision. As to the sheikh's complaints about his confinement and the searches of his cell, including the confiscation of his writings, the IPS said these measures “touched on considerations of security and intelligence surrounding [Salah’s] activities and the danger he poses.”

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