Last updated: 21 February, 2013

Israeli court rules on hunger-striker, but fate unclear

An Israeli court handed a Palestinian hunger striker eight months on Thursday for violating his parole, but though he has already served most of his sentence, his fate still lies with a military court.

At Jerusalem Magistrates Court, Samer Issawi, 33, was convicted of breaching the terms of his early release from jail in October 2011 by taking his car to be fixed at a garage in the West Bank, his lawyer Andre Rosenthal told AFP.

“He admitted going to the West Bank and he was sentenced to eight months,” he said.

Issawi was arrested on July 7 but was only convicted and sentenced on Thursday when he was handed a sentence which expires on March 6.

But because of a military order governing the terms of his release, Issawi’s fate will only be determined by a second hearing at an Israeli military court on March 21.

That hearing could see him being sent back to jail for years.

Issawi was initially arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for his military activities on behalf of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but he won early release in October 2011 as part of a deal which saw 1,027 inmates freed.

But Issawi, who is from annexed east Jerusalem, was rearrested in July for violating the terms of his release by visiting the West Bank.

He has been on hunger strike since August 1 in protest.

The military order in question governs the freedom of movement of former detainees, allowing for them to be rearrested if they move outside a certain geographic area close to their home without special permission.

It also says they can be rearrested on the basis of secret evidence.

And if they commit a new offence for which the penalty is three months in jail or more, then a military court can force them to serve out the remainder of their original sentence.

Depending on the outcome of the March 21 hearing, Issawi could be forced to serve the remaining 16 years of his original sentence.

Meanwhile, around 20 Palestinians were wounded when a demonstration of solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners turned into clashes with Israeli troops near the Ofer military prison outside Ramallah, medics said.

“Most of them were wounded by rubber bullets or suffered tear gas inhalation,” ambulance worker Talah Aideh told AFP.

Several hundred people had joined the demonstration in support of four long-term hunger-striking prisoners including Issawi, witnesses and an AFP correspondent said.

The fate of the prisoners has sparked widespread protests across the Palestinian territories and expressions of concern from the international community.

On Tuesday, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply concerned” about the hunger strikers, singling out the case of Issawi.