Israel's Top Court Suspends Administrative Detention of Palestinian Hunger Striker

Maher Akhras, striking for more than 90 days, remains at an Israeli hospital after justices rule that the remainder of his detention will be reconsidered upon his release from treatment

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Activists lift placards during a demonstration calling for the release of Palestinian administrative detainees, including Maher Akhras, outside Ayalon prison in central Israel, October 24, 2020.
Activists lift placards during a demonstration calling for the release of Palestinian administrative detainees, including Maher Akhras, outside Ayalon prison in central Israel, October 24, 2020.Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP

Israel's High Court of Justice ruled Sunday to suspend the administrative detention of Palestinian prisoner Maher Akhras, who is on a three-month hunger strike.

Akhras, 49, who hails from the village of Silat ad-Dhahr near Nablus, will remain in Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot. The justices ruled that if Akhras is released from the hospital, the remainder of his detention will be reconsidered, and the prosecution will need to make this announcement at least 48 hours in advance.

On Friday, the justices issued an interim order preventing Akhras from being transferred from the hospital to an Israel Prison Service medical center, following an urgent petition against transferring him to the service's authority and against the renewal of his administrative detention.

The army's Central Command had renewed Akhras' administrative detention following the decision to release him from the hospital. His detention was suspended following his hospitalization in recent weeks, after his condition deteriorated due to the hunger strike. The hospital said that they "acted solely on medical considerations, and in accordance with the decisions of the competent authorities."

Palestinian hunger striker Maher Akhras at Kaplan Hospital, Rehovot, on September 29, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod

Over the weekend, Akhras reported through his lawyer that guards and security personnel arrived at his room, forced his wife out, got him out of bed and transferred him to another room. Meanwhile, he fell to the floor. "I feel excruciating pain and I lost consciousness for about three hours," he said. "I feel very weak and in pain all over my body, but I told the medical staff that I do not want any treatment or assistance. If they want to help me then they will take me to a hospital in the West Bank, I want to die there - I do not want to die in Kaplan ... If I die then it will be when my family members are by my side."

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has meanwhile called on Israel to cease the practice of administrative detentions and to release Akhras immediately. "Recent visits to him by doctors indicate that his body is on the verge of collapse, and that some of the damage done to him may be permanent," said the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territories.

Akhras was issued a four-month administrative detention order on August 7. He 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 interrogation.

The High Court denied for the second time a petition to release him earlier this month. The court proposed that Akhras end his hunger strike in exchange for the administrative detention order against him not being 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.

Earlier this month, the state 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.

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