Last updated: 21 February, 2012

Palestinian minister: deal ends Palestinian prisoner hunger strike

A Palestinian prisoner has ended a 66-day hunger strike over his detention without charge under a deal that will see him freed in April, Palestinian and Israeli officials told AFP on Tuesday.

“The Israeli court decided to release on April 17 and based on that he ended his hunger strike,” Palestinian prisoner affairs minister Issa Qaraqaa said, with the details confirmed by a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“An agreement has been reached between lawyers of both parties that Khader Adnan ends his hunger strike, and if there is no new evidence against him, he will be released from custody on April 17,” Ofir Gendelman told AFP.

Adnan, 33, was detained on December 17 and began refusing food a day later to protest his detention without charge and his alleged mistreatment by interrogators.

His protest, already the longest hunger strike carried out by any Palestinian prisoner, has attracted international attention and thrown a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative , a military procedure which allows suspects to be held without charge.

Details of the agreement were made public just hours before the Israeli Supreme Court was to hear an appeal against Adnan’s detention without charge. The hearing was subsequently cancelled.

“There will be no extension of his administrative detention and he will be released on April 17,” his lawyer Jawad Bulus told AFP, saying Adnan would formally end his hunger strike at 7pm (1700 GMT).

Adnan’s wife, Randa Mussa, hailed the deal as a “victory” for her husband, whom medics said had lost more than 40 percent of his body weight over the past nine weeks.

“He forced the occupation to give in to his demands and I hope he returns safe to us,” she told AFP.

Shortly after the deal was announced, around 400 wellwishers gathered at a solidarity tent in front of Adnan’s family home in Arabeh village near the northern cit of Jenin.

Both Bulus and Qaraqaa addressed the crowd, as did Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, and there was a congratulatory phonecall from Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad official in Gaza.

Israeli officials have described Adnan, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad movement, as a “terrorist” although he has never been charged with any offence, nor has any evidence against him been made public.

In January, a military court handed down a four-month administrative detention order against Adnan.

He appealed against the order earlier this month in an unusual court session held at his hospital bed in the northern Israeli town of Safed, but the court rejected his appeal, prompting his lawyer to turn to Israel’s top court.

Doctors from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel who met with Adnan last week warned that his health was failing and that he faced “immediate danger of death” if he continued to refuse food.

Rights groups also condemned the fact that Adnan was shackled to his hospital bed by chains on both legs and on one arm.

But his act of civil disobedience won him respect across the Palestinian territories, with thousands of people turning out for solidarity rallies in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron and east Jerusalem.

Thousands of demonstrators also rallied in Gaza City, waving flags and holding up pictures of the bearded prisoner, AFP correspondents said.

In Ramallah, shops closed as part of a general solidarity strike, and around a thousand people joined a march from the city centre to Ofer military prison.

But the protest turned violent as stonethrowers clashed with troops who fired rubber bullets and tear gas, with three people injured by rubber bullets, an AFP correspondent and witnesses said.

In Jerusalem, about 70 youngsters carrying flags and pictures of Adnan marched along Salah al-Din, the main shopping street in the city’s eastern annexed sector.

And in Gaza City, thousands rallied in support of the bearded prisoner’s record-breaking strike, waving flags and holding up pictures of him, AFP correspondents said.

Palestinian officials had warned that Adnan’s death in custody could spark a violent backlash, and they urged world leaders to put pressure on Israel to either release the prisoner or charge him.