Israel Must Try or Free Hunger-striking Palestinian Journalist al-Qiq

There are 660 Palestinian currently being held by Israel without trial, a hunger strike is an attempt to challenge this policy with one's body, not a 'disciplinary infraction.'

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A Palestinian man carrying a placard bearing a portrait of Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qiq at a demonstration north of Ramallah.
A Palestinian man carrying a placard bearing a portrait of Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qiq at a demonstration north of Ramallah.Credit: AFP
Haaretz Editorial

The administrative detainee Mohammed al-Qiq, 33, has been on hunger strike for 65 days, demanding that the Israeli authorities either release him or put him on trial. Al-Qiq has been hospitalized in Haemek Hospital in Afula for a month, and his lawyers say his life is in danger. He has not yet been force-fed even though the law now allows it, but he has been given medical treatment against his will.

Al-Qiq, a reporter for the Saudi television channel Al Majd and a father of two, was arrested on November 21 in his home in the village of Abu Qash, north of Ramallah. According to his wife, he launched a hunger strike to protest the interrogation methods used against him, which he described as torture, and after he concluded that investigators wanted him to confess to “incitement.”

The investigation yielded nothing, and on December 20 al-Qiq was put in administrative detention for six months. The Israel Prison Service does not allow his family to visit him as a punishment for his hunger strike, which is considered a “disciplinary infraction.”

Mohammed’s father, Ahmed al-Qiq, was released in July 2015 after being held in administrative detention for 13 months. Palestinian media reports associate both father and son with Hamas.

According to Addameer, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, there are 660 Palestinian administrative detainees currently being held without trial for six months or more. International law permits administrative detention only in the most extreme cases, to foil a real and immediate security threat. But in the hands of the continuing Israeli military regime in the territories administrative detention has become a regular and comfortable tool for silencing people.

Al-Qiq’s lengthy hunger strike recalls that of former administrative detainee Mohammed Allan, who was on hunger strike for more than 60 days to protest his detention without trial. Allan was also hospitalized and for a time was on a respirator, his life in danger. In the end, the High Court of Justice froze the administrative order against him because of his health.

Al-Qiq, like Allan, is challenging this policy at risk to his health and life. The claim that releasing prisoners like him will set a precedent for other prisoners is irrelevant. Carrying out proper legal procedures in cases like his is what will prevent additional precedents of hunger striking to the brink of death.

The High Court suspended a hearing on a petition regarding Al-Qiq’s case pending an update on his medical condition. While his medical condition should indeed be taken into account, what’s more important is that if the state has material on recent security violations by al-Qiq, it’s strange that he isn’t being confronted with the evidence. The state should either put him on trial in keeping with the rule of law, or release him immediately.

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