Israeli Prisons Relent on Palestinian Strikers' Meetings With Lawyers

Deal comes after High Court justices ask why Palestinian prisoners not on strike are allowed to talk to attorneys, but not 1,000-plus strikers

Protesters at Ramallah's Nelson Mandela Square, May 3, 2017.
Nasser Nasser/AP

The Israel Prisons Service will allow the 1,000-plus hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners to meet with their attorneys, after an agreement was reached between the state and the Palestinian prisoner leadership and its legal representation, the Adalah Center for Minority Rights.

The deal was made after a petition was submitted to the High Court of Justice against the difficulties prison officials were creating for attorneys who wanted to meet with their clients, as a punishment for the hunger strike. These Palestinian prisoners have been on a hunger strike since April 17 to protest the conditions of their incarceration.

The High Court petition was filed last week, and Wednesday the two sides met in court. At the hearing the justices asked why the prisons were allowing convicts who weren’t on hunger strike to meet with their attorneys while blocking such meetings for hunger strikers. Upon hearing the justices’ remarks, the two sides held consultations outside the courtroom and came to the agreement.

Under the deal, the 17 lawyers in whose name the petition was filed will be contacted within the next two days about setting up meetings with their clients, while new requests will be examined in accordance with the law.

“It’s unfortunate that lawyers have to go to court to realize a constitutional right that isn’t in dispute, and to allow them to visit prisoners on hunger strike for 16 days,” said attorney Muna Haddad of Adalah. “The Palestinian prisoners were striking to protest the humiliating and inhumane conditions under which they’re held, and in response, the prisons service takes punitive measures that further violate their rights.”

As of Wednesday the prisons service was denying the hunger strikers any visitors and had cut off any means, including television and radio, that could provide them with information about what is going on outside the walls.

On Wednesday thousands of people gathered in Nelson Mandela Square in Ramallah to show support for the hunger strikers. The rally’s organizers said the choice of venue was not coincidental, as the Palestinians, including those imprisoned as Mandela had been, are fighting racism and believe in their freedom.