There is no reason why Marwan Barghouti can’t meet with his lawyers, and such a meeting will be arranged in the near future, the Israel Prison Service told the attorneys of the senior Fatah figure Wednesday.
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Barghouti, who is serving five life terms plus 40 years in Israel for direct involvement in three terror attacks that killed five people, is a prominent leader of the hunger strike called this week by Palestinian prisoners in Israel to demand better conditions.
On Tuesday, several attorneys representing hunger-striking prisoners said the Israel Prison Service had barred them from meeting with their clients on the grounds that their clients were being held in solitary confinement.
Barghouti’s lawyers, Abeer Baker and Elias Sabbagh, promptly asked the Justice Ministry’s High Court division to overrule the ban and threatened to petition the High Court of Justice if it did not. The Palestinian Prisoners Society filed a similar request.
On Wednesday, the legal advisor for the Prison Service’s northern district phoned Baker and Sabbagh to tell them they would be allowed to meet with Barghouti.
“From the start, we said there was no legal basis for preventing the meeting,” Baker told Haaretz. “We hope no such illegal moves will recur in the future, toward Barghouti or any other prisoner.”
She added that the decision in Barghouti’s case, which was made in conjunction with defense officials and senior government attorneys, also applied to the other hunger strikers.
Several other lawyers have already requested meetings with clients who, like Barghouti, were put in isolation cells after the hunger strike began.
Four of the prisoners plan to petition the High Court of Justice on Thursday, demanding improvements to the way they are transported to and from prison in general and better conditions in the vehicles in particular. The petition will argue that even though this issue has been discussed in court before, the Israel Prison Service refuses to make the necessary changes.
Anu Deuelle-Luski, the lawyer who drafted the petition, said the problem affects the entire Israeli prison system. She described cases in which prisoners had no other choice but to urinate in bottles while being transported, and others in which the journey caused severe deterioration in the condition of sick prisoners.
The egregious transport conditions “don’t just infringe on the prisoners’ right to minimal prison conditions and living conditions, but in practice also lead to infringements on their rights to access to the courts and to obtain reasonable medical treatment, because these prisoners simply prefer to skip the difficult travel experience and refrain from traveling to hearings or to get medical treatment,” Deuelle-Luski added.
Also on Wednesday, the PLO’s commission for prisoner affairs voiced fears that Israel would start force-feeding the hunger strikers. Issa Qaraqe, the commission’s chairman, added that the number of hunger-striking prisoners rose to 1,500 in the past two days, and he expects it to continue climbing.
Dozens of Palestinians demonstrated in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross office in East Jerusalem in support of the strikers on Wednesday. The protesters urged the international community to intervene to ensure that the prisoners’ demands were met.