Last updated: 11 June, 2012

Israel says Palestinian ends long-term hunger strike

Israeli prison authorities said on Monday that a Palestinian inmate has ended a hunger strike after more than 80 days, but Palestinian sources, including his lawyer, denied the claim.

“(Mahmud) Sarsak ended his hunger strike,” Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP, saying he had taken the decision to end his fast after consulting his lawyer and the prison administration.

But Sarsak’s family in Gaza, as well as the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club in Ramallah, denied he had ended his strike.

And his lawyer, Mohammed Jabarin, said he had no comment on the Israeli claim.

Weizman said Sarsak, who is being held in the infirmary wing at Ramle prison, gave no reason for ending his hunger strike, and said his health was being monitored as he gradually started eating again.

Sarsak began refusing food in late March along with several other prisoners in a protest joined in April by more than 1,000 detainees demanding better conditions, including increased access to lawyers and visits from relatives in Gaza.

He and others also sought an end to the practice of holding suspects in administrative detention, an antiquated procedure dating back to the British Mandate under which a military court can order an individual held without charge for renewable periods of six months.

The mass hunger strike ended on May 14 with a deal that saw Israel agree to ease prison conditions, but not end administrative detention.

Sarsak continued his hunger strike and his health has been deteriorating, with prison authorities transferring him briefly to a civilian hospital on Sunday night before returning him to the Ramle prison near Tel Aviv.

On Monday, activists staged demonstrations in support of Sarsak, with about 60 protesters, many of them foreigners, gathering outside the British Consulate in east Jerusalem waving signs reading “Free Sarsak, Free Palestine.”

Some held up a large British flag covered in red handprints bearing the slogan “Blood on your hands” while others waved banners reading “You brought administrative detention here, you must remove it.”

And in the West Bank, about 100 people held a solidarity rally by the Ofer military prison, some playing football matches in a nod to Sarsak’s career in the sport before his arrest in 2009.