Last updated: 22 June, 2012

NGO says Palestinian hunger strikers in danger

An Israeli rights group said on Thursday that the life of an ailing Palestinian prisoner on the 71st day of hunger strike is in danger and he is being denied regular visits by an independent doctor.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said that Akram Rikhawi had been fasting since April 12, and the last time one of their doctors was given access to him, on June 6, he weighed 49 kilos.

“Sixteen days have now passed since the PHR-Israel doctor determined that Akram is at immediate risk of death, due to the combination of his protracted hunger strike and his prior chronic conditions, including diabetes and asthma,” the group said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) said Rikhawi was receiving proper care.

“The prisoner is held in a medical facility of the Israel Prisons Service. He gets the required medical treatment,” Sivan Weizman told AFP.

“He has been taken to hospital a number of times, where the medical staff decided to discharge him. Should it be necessary, according to the decision of an IPS doctor, he will be taken again.”

Along with footballer Mahmud Sarsak, Rikhawi continued to fast after more than 1,500 other Palestinian prisoners ended a mass hunger strike in support of demands for better conditions in a deal with prison authorities in May.

Rikhawi, who has served two thirds of a nine-year sentence, is agitating for early release on medical grounds, while Sarsak, an administrative detainee from Gaza, is demanding to be recognised as a prisoner of war.

One of the terms of the May agreement was that those held without trial in what Israel calls “administrative detention” would go free at the end of their current term — unless fresh evidence emerged against them.

Administrative detention is a procedure that allows suspects to be held without charge for renewable periods of up to six months.

PHR-Israel said that veteran hunger-striker Hassan Safdi, who fasted for 71 days until the May deal, had again stopped eating on Thursday after his expected release failed to take place.

“Safdi’s administrative detention order was renewed today for an additional six months,” the statement said, adding that he had been detained without charge since June last year.

“PHR-Israel learnt that Safdi’s frustration at his renewed administrative detention order today led to his decision to renew his hunger strike. A renewed hunger strike, especially following such a long and devastating one, is an imminent danger to his life,” it said.