Israel's Top Court Denies Another Request to Release Palestinian Hunger-striker

Maher Akhras, who denies claims of his Islamic Jihad membership, was offered to be freed in November at the end of his administrative detention in return for ending his strike

Hagar Shezaf
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Maher Akhras is seen in a hospital bed in Kaplan Hospital, September 29, 2020.
Maher Akhras is seen in a hospital bed in Kaplan Hospital, September 29, 2020.Credit: Motti Millrod
Hagar Shezaf

The High Court of Justice denied for the second time a petition to release Maher Akhras, a Palestinian held in administrative detention without trial, who has been on a hunger strike for more than two and a half months.

Akhras, who was arrested in July for his suspected involvement with Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad, has been hospitalized in an Israeli hospital since September. The ruling said his life is in danger.

Akhras, 49, is from the village of Silat al-Dhahr, north of Nablus in the northern West Bank. Akhras was accused, based on secret intelligence, of being a prominent member of Islamic Jihad, “who is involved in activity that endangers security in the area, incites and makes extremist statements.” He denied these accusations during his investigation.

Earlier this month, the state had claimed in a closed-door High Court session that Akhras had been recorded boasting about being a member in militant Islamic Jihad organization, despite the transcript showing that he did not.

The Ofer Prison in the West Bank.
The Ofer Prison in the West Bank.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

In a Tuesday hearing, it was proposed that Akhras end his hunger strike and in return the administrative detention order against him would not be renewed when it expires on November 26.

This offer, however, included a condition that his detention could be renewed should new information arise. Akhras rejected the High Court’s proposal and said he would continue his strike until he was released to his home. 

The Israel Prison Service said that 32 Palestinian prisoners in the Ofer Prison began a hunger strike on Tuesday in solidarity with Akhras. “This action by the prisoners represents a disciplinary violation and they were punished immediately and put in isolation and placed in empty cells without any equipment.”

On Saturday, the Islamic Jihad warned Israel of the implications of the deterioration in Akhras’ condition. The UN special envoy to the region, Nickolay Mladenov, is in contact with Israel concerning Akhras’s release, said sources in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, the High Court froze his detention because of his medical condition, and since then he has submitted two petitions requesting to be released from detention when he is released from the hospital. On August 7 he was issued a four-month administrative detention order.

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