Last updated: 11 February, 2012

HRW to Israel: charge or free Palestinian hunger striker

An international NGO on Saturday called on Israel to “immediately charge or release” a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for the past 56 days.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Israel should “immediately end its unlawful administrative detention” of Khader Adnan, who has refused food since December 18, and “charge or release him.”

Adnan, who was arrested near the northern West Bank city of Jenin on December 17, had served as a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, but Israel has not charged him formally or revealed any evidence against him.

His hunger strike, longer than any Palestinian prisoner before him, according to Palestinian officials, is in protest over what he calls his unjust detention and mistreatment by Israeli authorities.

On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians held a protest outside the Ofer prison in the West Bank in solidarity with Adnan and hurled rocks at security forces, an Israeli military spokesman said.

The security forces used riot dispersal methods, and activists said 16 protesters were wounded by rubber bullets and tear gas.

In addition, two Israelis and two Palestinians were arrested in a separate rally for Adnan in the West Bank village of Beit Omar, the military and activists said.

Last month, a military court ordered that Adnan be held in administrative detention for four months, although with his condition frail and worsening, he has been held mostly in a string of Israeli hospitals since early January.

Under Israeli military law, a court can order an individual held for up to six months at a time without charge, although the order can be appealed.

On Thursday, he appealed his detention without charge before an Israeli military judge sitting in a special session in hospital, but the court is not expected to rule before Sunday, his lawyer told AFP.

“Israel should end, today, before it’s too late, its almost two-month-long refusal to inform Adnan of any criminal charge or evidence against him,” Whitson said.

On Friday, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, called on Israel “to do everything in its power to preserve the health of the prisoner and resolve this case while abiding by all legal obligations under international law.”