Palestinian Authority Suspends Funds to Prisoners' Rights Group 'Due to Israeli, U.S. Pressure'

Palestinian Prisoners Club says that although it hasn't been officially notified, all signs suggest funds are being frozen; PPC leads fight for prisoners' rights in Israeli jails

Protesters rally in support of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails after hundreds launched a mass hunger strike, Bethlehem, West Bank, April 17, 2017.

The Palestinian Authority has suspended payments to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, a nongovernmental organization that is considered the leader of the public and legal fight for prisoners’ rights.

Sources, including leading PPC activists, told Haaretz that while they have no written confirmation of the decision, the PA’s conduct suggests it is freezing funds to the group.

The head of the organization, Qadura Fares, declined to respond officially, saying a decision had been made not to discuss the matter with the media at this stage.

Figures in the prisoners club said the PA’s decision to seemingly withdraw funding is due to pressure from Israel and the United States regarding assistance to Palestinian prisoners, plus the PPC’s support for the hunger strike in Israel by Fatah-affiliated prisoners earlier this year.

That strike was led by Marwan Barghouti, who commands the support of many of the PPC’s activists, including Fares.

The prisoners club operates in the territories of the PA as a registered charity. It is supported by the PA, by income from its own institutions and by small donations.

Its activities include educational services for prisoners and support services such as legal aid. The club does not handle the allowances paid to prisoners by the PA. These are distributed by the PA’s prisoners administration, which is funded by the Palestine National Fund – the economic arm of the PLO – and not by the PA itself.

Figures in the prisoners club said the PA’s budget freeze will have a major effect on the organization’s operations and could lead to its closure. They said it was not yet known who will be responsible for seeing that Palestinian prisoners are represented by lawyers in Israeli courts, while the fate of its other institutions is also up in the air.

They stressed that no decision that affects hundreds of prisoners and their families would be taken lightly.

“We hope the PA, and especially its president, Mahmoud Abbas, will wake up and not persist in this policy in order to please Israel and the United States, on the one hand, and to take revenge on the heads of the prisoners club over internal disagreements on the other,” one leading PPC activist said.