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Thursday, October 22, 2020

77 days on strike for dignity and freedom: Maher al-Akhras resists!

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Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network is an international network of activists building solidarity with Palestinian prisoners.

Maher al-Akhras, Palestinian prisoner jailed without charge or trial, is currently on his 77th day of hunger strike. He launched his strike to demand an end to his administrative detention by the Israeli occupation, declaring that “I either live freely with my children, or I am killed in the name of false justice.”

His health condition is particularly precarious after 77 days without food or other forms of nutrition. Al-Akras is married and the father of six children; his wife, Taghreed, launched her own hunger strike alongside her husband four days ago to demand his freedom.

Maher al-Akhras in Kaplan hospital on hunger strike. Photo credit: Oren Ziv/Activestills

He is held in the Kaplan medical center, where he suffers from severe weakness, emaciation, massive weight loss, difficulty moving and frequent loss of consciousness, and he is refusing medical examinations or supplements of any kind. He has emphasized that his message is “freedom or death.”

Taghreed al-Akhras raised serious concerns about her husband’s health in the Kaplan medical center, especially after he was transferred to another room following the discovery of a COVID-19 case in a patient in a neighboring room, with medical personnel commonly going back and forth between al-Akhras and the other patient.

Israeli occupation forces claimed to have “suspended” his administrative detention; however, this is not the same thing as cancelling his detention. Al-Akhras’ lawyer submitted a new appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding his release; earlier, an appeals court used the “suspension” of his detention – even though he is not free – to deny review of the case.

If he ends his hunger strike and returns to health, his administrative detention could be re-imposed immediately. Al-Akhras has denounced this “suspension” as a mere trick, an attempt to disrupt and undermine support for his hunger strike for dignity. He is demanding his complete freedom from detention without charge or trial and launched his strike immediately after the administrative detention order was imposed upon him in July 2020.

Taghreed al-Akhras, Maher’s wife. Photo: Al-Mayadeen

There are currently approximately 350 Palestinians held in administrative detention, out of around 4,700 Palestinian political prisoners overall. Administrative detention was first introduced to Palestine by the British colonial mandate and then adopted by the Zionist state, where it is routinely used to imprison Palestinian community leaders and organizers without charge or trial. Detention orders are indefinitely renewable, and Palestinians have spent years at a time jailed under arbitrary administrative detention.

Israel’s routine and systematic use of administrative detention against Palestinian civilians constitutes a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Articles 9, 10 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Since 1967, at least 50,000 administrative detention orders have been issued by Israeli military officials and courts.

Palestinians in Rafah protest in support of Maher al-Akhras

Al-Akhras’ fellow Palestinian prisoners have launched collective calls for his release as well as the end of isolation for Palestinian prisoners Wael Jaghoub, Omar Kharwat and Hatem Qawasmeh. Prisoners in the Negev desert prison announced that they were renouncing their representation in the prison and any form of negotiations with the prison administration until Al-Akhras is freed from administrative detention and Jaghoub and Kharwat ar returned to the general prison population.

Palestinians in Gaza City and Rafah organized demonstrations to demand Akhras’ immediate release.

In Jenin, a group of former prisoners and activists announced a solidarity strike in the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, including former long-term hunger striker Sheikh Khader Adnan:

On Monday, 12 October, Samidoun Network in Occupied Palestine will join with student organizers to protest at Manara Square in occupied Ramallah to support Maher al-Akhras and his fellow Palestinian prisoners struggling for liberation.

Protest in Ramallah on Monday, 12 October

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network stands with Maher al-Akhras, his family and loved ones and the Palestinian prisoners’ movement in demanding his immediate release and an end to Israeli administrative detention. Administrative detention and the political imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians are colonial weapons used against the Palestinian people that have affected nearly every Palestinian family.

At the same time, the U.S., Canada, Britain, the European Union and other imperialist powers – as well as the reactionary Arab regimes normalizing with Israel, such as the UAE and Bahrain – are deeply complicit in these crimes against the Palestinian people, including the ongoing detention of Maher al-Akhras. These powers’ military, diplomatic, political and economic support of the Israeli occupation regime, and their attacks on Palestinian rights inside and outside Palestine, continue to enable the ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Israeli Zionist regime against the Palestinian people.

We urge all supporters of Palestine to join the campaign to free Maher al-Akhras and all Palestinian prisoners, including boycotting and internationally isolating Israel and its complicit academic and cultural institutions and corporate profiteers reaping benefits from the occupation and colonization of Palestine.

Freedom for Maher al-Akhras and all Palestinian prisoners!

Freedom for Palestine, from the river to the sea!

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