A very urgent matter: Maher Al-Akhras, a Palestinian man of 49 who has been detained repeatedly by Israel, is today in Day 78 of a hunger strike that has brought him close to death. Arrested in July without charges and held at an Israeli hospital since September, Al-Akhras has refused an offer to be released next month, demanding his release now in the name of all Palestinian detainees.
The case for Al-Akhras’s release was heard today in an Israeli court. “No representative from the Israeli institutional press showed his face,” reports activist Anat Matar at Facebook.
A letter-writing campaign to the Israeli Defense Minister and to politicians everywhere has begun, demanding the release of this father of six from a village near Jenin, in the occupied West Bank. You can find that letter near the end of this post.
Al-Akhras’s condition worsened over the weekend. Accepting only water, he is dizzy and has lost nearly half his weight, and starvation is reportedly compromising some organs.
Palestine Live on Facebook reports that other Palestinian prisoners have begun a hunger strike, and former prisoners too.
Palestinian prisoner’s commission: 30 prisoners in Ofer Detention Center will start a hunger strike, in support of the prisoner Maher Al-Akhras….
Palestinian former detainees held today a sit-in at the International Committee of the Red Cross office in Nablus in solidarity with prisoner Maher al-Akhras..
Here is a wrenching video from October 8 of Al-Akhras in the Kaplan medical center in Tel Aviv, where he was moved by Israeli authorities and where only his wife has been able to visit him, not his children. Struggling for breath, he is clear about his situation and intention, per the translation by Quds news:
“I’m going through a difficult time. I won’t back down on my decision. I choose either to be free among my children or killed in the name of the false justice
Samidoun, the Palestinian prisoners’ network, says that message was shared by Al-Akhras’s lawyer, Ahlam Haddad, who said al-Akhras had rejected the Israeli government’s offer of freeing him on Nov. 26 at end of his “detention period.”
“This strike is…in defense of every Palestinian prisoner, and in defense of my people who are suffering from the occupation, and my victory in this strike is a victory for the prisoners and my Palestinian people,” Al-Akhras affirmed.
Samidoun also reports that al-Akhras’s wife Taghreed had joined the hunger strike and Palestinians had conducted a twitter storm to attempt to get more attention for the case.
Taghreed al-Akhras also reported that her husband has lost nearly half of his body weight, suffers from a severe headache and constant ringing in the ears; he is too weak to stand or go to the washroom. This is the fifth time al-Akhras, known for his strong support for Palestinian political prisoners, has been jailed by Israeli occupation forces. He was born in August 1971 in Silat al-Dhahr, a village near Jenin; he was arrested in 1989, 2004, 2009 and again in 2018, most times jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention.
Samidoun says the “routine and systematic” use by Israel of detention is a violation of the Geneva conventions.
These detention orders – first introduced to Palestine by the British colonial mandate and used routinely by the Israeli occupation – are indefinitely renewable, and they are used to jail Palestinians for years at a time. There are currently approximately 350 Palestinians jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention among a total of 4,400 Palestinian political prisoners.
Oren Ziv reports on the case at 972 last week:
Al-Akhras… was arrested on July 28, allegedly on charges of belonging to Islamic Jihad. On Aug. 7, he was put in administrative detention for four months. He has been on hunger strike since the day of his arrest.
Two weeks ago, the Israeli High Court of Justice “froze” al-Akhras’ detention pending an improvement in his condition, yet refused to cancel it or allow him to leave the hospital. Al-Akhras is worried that he will be re-arrested after he resumes eating and is demanding assurances that this will not be the case.
Now here is the letter prepared by Anat Matar to send to Benny Gantz as well as officials in the U.S. to seek Al-Akhras’s release. (“Please also CC your representatives in Parliament, Congress, City Hall etc.”)
To the Israeli Defense Minister, Mr. Benny Gantz email@example.com
CC: Israel’s Attorney Generalanerh@justice.gov.il
Dear Mr. Gantz,
This is an urgent appeal asking you to immediately intervene in order to save the life of administrative detainee Maher al-Akhras (49) from Jenin, a father of six, who has been on hunger strike for 77 days now. His health condition is deteriorating by the moment and he is in imminent mortal danger.
Al-Akhras protests against the unlawful and anti-democratic procedure of administrative detention, which is used by Israel frequently. Administrative detainees are imprisoned without any kind of indictment, they don’t know what they are accused of and cannot respond and defend themselves. Their arrest may be prolonged indefinitely. The military prosecution declared that Akhras’ detention would not be prolonged when the present term is finished, in November. Yet they refuse to release this dying man several weeks before this date, despite his terrible health condition. Needless to day, al-Akhras cannot be classified as a “security threat” at the moment! The military obstinacy is cruel, inhuman and cannot be justified in any way. Mr. Gantz: as Minister of Defense you have the power to save al-Akhras. You can do this in one simple order.
Please use your power and do so. Give an order to release Maher al-Akhras immediately.
Thanks to Ofer Neiman and Jonathan Ofir.