Israel to Let Palestinian Hunger Strike Leader Mawan Barghouti Meet With Red Cross

But Israel nixes meeting between Barghouti and his lawyer at last minute

An Israeli prison guard escorts jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, center,  to a deliberation at Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in January, 2012.
Baz Ratner/ Reuters

Marwan Barghouti will meet for the first time with a Red Cross representative, the Palestinian prisoners administration announced on Wednesday.

If the meeting takes place on Thursday, it will be the first time that any non-governmental representative meets with Barghouti since Palestinian prisoners commenced their hunger strike on April 17. The Israel Prison Service confirmed to Haaretz that there is agreement over a Red Cross representative visiting Barghouti, but that no exact date had been set. The service spokesman’s office stated that the visit would be held by the end of next week.

The prisoners’ club was taken by surprise on Wednesday when the prison service retracted its agreement to allow the Barghouti family’s lawyer to visit him. Attorney Khader Shakirat said that he had agreed to the prison service’s conditions that he visit only Barghouti and not any other prisoners participating in the hunger strike. His visit was coordinated, but a few hours before he was to arrive, the prison service announced that it had canceled the visit without providing a reason. Shakirat and Barghouti’s family called the move intentional foot dragging and a political decision to prevent Barghouti from seeing a lawyer.

Meanwhile, Palestinians have continued to demonstrate support for the hunger-striking prisoners. On Wednesday, a convoy of dozens of vehicles from Baka al-Garbiyeh, an Arab town in northern Israel, headed toward Nazareth. On Thursday there will be a symbolic hunger strike in a tent in the presence of the heads of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee in Israel. The committee called on Israel’s Arab public to join the strike for one day in solidarity with the prisoners.

Palestinians in the West Bank are planning to hold calls of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) in mosques and to ring church bells in support of the hunger-striking prisoners at noon on Thursday.