Israeli Court Rejects Deteriorating Palestinian Hunger Striker’s Petition for Release

Khalil Awawdeh’s lawyer warns that 171 days into his hunger strike, he could die at any moment

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Israel’s High Court rejected a petition demanding the release of Khalil Awawdeh on Tuesday, a Palestinian hunger striker protesting his administrative detention, which was frozen in light of his deteriorating condition but not ultimately cancelled.

Awawdeh’s lawyers warn that, 171 days into his hunger strike, he could die at any moment. But Israel refuses to either release him or charge him in court, and has conditioned the freeze of his detention on him staying in the hospital. The state told the justices on Tuesday that it has not yet decided whether to extend Awawdeh’s detention when the current order expires in October.

In her ruling today, Judge Anat Baron said that in light of the fact that a ruling on the petition calling for his release was given about a week ago, there is no substantial change in circumstances to justify the court’s intervention.

Baron reiterated the summary provided by the Shin Bet regarding the reason for Awawdeh’s arrest – which states that he is an Islamic Jihad militant involved in activities that endanger Israel’s security and that he maintains an inflammatory nationalist Facebook page. The judges believed there was ‘solid’ justification for the order to arrest Awawdeh, and added that the fact that there were no charges filed against him does not speak to the strength of the evidence, but only to the fact that exposing such evidence could “severely compromise the security of the state and the sources of information.”

“Even at this point,” Baron said, “we have nothing to do other than hope he will come to his sense and end the hunger strike.”

Dr. Bettina Birmans, a neurologist who volunteers at Physicians for Human Rights visited Awawdeh last Friday. In her opinion, which was submitted with the petition for his release, Birmans said that compared to summaries of previous tests Awawdeh has undergone, there has been a deterioration in his condition – he can barely move his limbs, is unable to complete sentences, suffers from weakness and pain throughout his body, and is experiencing deterioration of his eyesight, memory, and cognitive function.

Birmans added that in addition to the Awawdeh’s risk of heart attack, he also is at significant risk of irreversible organ damage even if he were to cease his hunger strike.

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