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Palestinian Prisoner Khader Adnan to be Released from Israeli Jail After 66-Day Hunger Strike

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Israel’s Justice Ministry says that the authorities will not renew the detention of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for 66 days. He is being held in Israel without charge or trial. Under the deal, Adnan will be released on April 17. Doctors previously said Adnan was at immediate risk of death. We speak to three guests about his case: his sister, Maali Mousa; Bill Van Esveld, researcher at Human Rights Watch; and Danny Morrison, a friend of the late Irish republican activist Bobby Sands, who died on his 66th day of a hunger strike in 1981. “[Adnan] told us that, 'I am going on this hunger strike until I have an honorable deal or getting out from this jail,'” said Mousa about her recent visit to see her brother. “But in the same time, his spirits were very high.” Van Esveld accused Israel of violating international law by holding a Palestinian from the West Bank inside Israel. “It’s a violation of Israel’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions to detain people from the occupied West Bank in prisons, or hospitals, in this case, that are inside Israel,” he said. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the release of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner being held in Israel without charge or trial who is the 66th day of his hunger strike. Agence France-Presse reports Adnan has ended his 66-day hunger strike under a deal that will see him released in April. Khader Adnan has refused to eat since he was arrested in mid-December. Doctors say he’s at immediate risk of death.

In a video posted online Sunday, a voice believed to be that of Khader Adnan can be heard yelling from his hospital room, saying, “The strike will continue. The strike will continue…until freedom, pride and dignity.”

KHADER ADNAN: [translated] The strike continues. The strike continues. The strike continues…until there’s freedom and dignity, until there’s freedom and dignity.

AMY GOODMAN: Adnan is being held under so-called “administrative detention,” which means Israel can detain him indefinitely without trial or charge. There are said to be at least 300 other Palestinians held on so-called “administrative detention” in Israeli jails. Palestinians jailed inside Israel are holding a 24-hour hunger strike in solidarity with Adnan, in conjunction with a series of rallies planned in the Occupied Territories.

For more, we’re joined on the phone by Adnan’s lawyer. We’re also joined by—from Arraba, Israel, by Khader Adnan’s sister, Maali Mousa, joins us on the phone. And here in New York, we’re joined by Bill Van Esveld, a Jerusalem-based researcher at Human Rights Watch focusing on Israel-Palestine.

Bill, why don’t we start with you? Explain the case of this prisoner, who’s in the 66th day of his hunger strike.

BILL VAN ESVELD: Khader Adnan is alleged by Israel to be a member of Islamic Jihad, which is a banned group that’s carried out attacks on Israeli civilians in the past. But Israel has not alleged that he, himself, did anything wrong. He’s been detained under administrative detention without any charges, without any ability to see any evidence against him, after being arrested out of his home at 3:30 in the morning on December 17th. The day following that, he began a hunger strike in protest.

AMY GOODMAN: Where did he live?

BILL VAN ESVELD: He lived in Arraba in the West Bank, in the northern West Bank, near the town of Jenin.

He has started this hunger strike, which has really galvanized a lot of anger at the administrative detention system, under which more than—around 309 Palestinians are currently in detention inside Israeli prisons. And, you know, an unconfirmed report now from Reuters says that Adnan has made a deal that in exchange for the state promising to try him criminally rather than to throw him into the administrative detention system, he will stop his hunger strike as of today, and that the state will release him on April 17th if no new evidence is discovered against him.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how many people are in the same situation he is in, how many prisoners.

BILL VAN ESVELD: Well, we’ve got—we know that there are at least 309 Palestinians in administrative detention. This is a system whereby you can be locked away for six months at a time on the order of the Israeli military, without any evidence being presented against you and without your ability to see any of it. It’s usually called classified or secret evidence, that you’re not able to see. Some of those people in administrative detention have been there for more than two years. There are about 16 people in detention for between two and four-and-a-half years. One man has been locked away for more than five years, without any charge, any ability to appeal his case before a court.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you get involved with this case, Bill?

BILL VAN ESVELD: We heard about this case—I’m based in Jerusalem for Human Rights Watch. We heard about this quite some time ago and have been following up with Khader’s family and his lawyers and Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which is an Israeli nonprofit group that’s been able to convince the Israeli prison authorities to allow them to come see him and provide some medical advice, but it’s been quite difficult. He’s actually been chained to a hospital bed for the last part of his detention, you know, with prison guards in the room at all times, on the basis that he was a supposed security threat.

AMY GOODMAN: Talking to CNN yesterday, Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev defended the policy of administrative detention, saying it’s comparable to policies in place in other Western democracies.

MARK REGEV: It’s clear that in terrorist cases often you rely on intelligence information. There are problems with sources and methods. And Israel, like other democracies, like the United States, like Great Britain, there’s a certain amount of discretion that you have. And I think it’s important to say here, if I might, that this man is a self-professed leader in Islamic Jihad.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response?

BILL VAN ESVELD: The administrative detention system throws out the most basic due process rights of those who are kept in jail this way. I mean, imagine that you’re arrested out of your bed at 3:30 in the morning. You have no information about why you were arrested. Khader Adnan’s family said, “We don’t know what it was this time.” He has been arrested many times in the past. This is actually his ninth detention. And, you know, the Israeli government and others say, yes, a member of Islamic Jihad. Well, that’s fine. That’s not really the issue. The issue is, why is he being arrested without charge? Why is he being thrown in jail, kept apart from his family, without any idea of what it was that he’s alleged to have done wrong and any ability to defend himself against those charges?

AMY GOODMAN: Why is he shackled?

BILL VAN ESVELD: This is one of the strangest aspects of this case. A man who’s been on hunger strike for more than 60 days was being shackled to his hospital bed on the claim that he presented a security threat to the security of the area. It seems hard to believe that a man with two prison guards in his hospital room, who was so weak he could barely move, would present any sort of threat that required shackling.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on the telephone from Ireland by Danny Morrison, an Irish Republican writer and activist, former member of Sinn Fein, secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust. Bobby Sands was the Irish activist who died in 1981 during a hunger strike against British rule. Sands was on the 66th day of his hunger strike, the same day Khader Adnan is on today. Danny Morrison is now speaking out in support of Khader Adnan’s freedom, joining us on the phone from Belfast.

Danny, welcome to Democracy Now!

DANNY MORRISON: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: You were in prison with Bobby Sands back in 1981?

DANNY MORRISON: No, I was not in prison at that stage. I was outside and was nominated by Bobby as his spokesperson. And so, at the time of his election campaign, I did most of the radio and television interviews and also liaised with the international media community. I had been in jail and did come across Bobby in jail in 1973, and also I had been interned in my teens without charge or trial, which is the same as administrative detention.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain why you have gotten involved with Khader Adnan’s case.

DANNY MORRISON: Well, first of all, I consider him to be a political prisoner. I consider myself, as an Irish republican, someone who is concerned with freedom and the rights of oppressed people around the world. After all, our struggle was supported far and wide, from—you know, by activists in South Africa, in jails in South Africa. In fact, in South Africa, when prisoners on Robben Island went on hunger strike, they described—the code word for it was “We’re going to do a Sands.” That was named after Bobby Sands. And Bobby Sands’ name, you know, lives around the world 31 years after his death. And we identify with the treatment meted out to these political prisoners by the Israeli authorities.

And I don’t know whether you have reported on this, but I—a few minutes ago, I got a message, and I’m not sure if it’s true or not—I think it was reported on one news agency, perhaps Al Jazeera, that the Israeli authorities are going to release him. But I don’t want to raise false hopes, but I don’t know if that’s true or not.

AMY GOODMAN: We are hearing different reports, but something along those lines. The Israeli Supreme Court is hearing this case as we speak, Danny Morrison.

DANNY MORRISON: Oh, I see. They’ve brought it forward.

AMY GOODMAN: We are now joined by Maali Mousa. Danny, stay on the line. Maali Mousa is Khader Adnan’s sister. We’ve been trying to reach her through the morning. She is speaking to us from Arraba.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!. What is the latest news about your brother Khader, Maali?

MAALI MOUSA: You know, from this morning, starting this morning, we have heard many rumors. Something—some of them were saying that it’s a fixed four months. No one will renew the administrative detention after this period. And he will stay there in the hospital to recover from the hunger strike. Another lawyer told us that, “No, we are going to make a deal to let him go out from the jail after a couple of days.” But then we heard from the prisoners—sorry, the ministry of prisoners that Khader will be released on April 17th, which means it’s the—a fixed four months. And he will stay in the hospital until he recovered from the hunger strike. But until now, we didn’t hear anything, any information in—from the ministry itself or from a prisoners’ club or by the lawyer. All of these things are—I’m not sure what’s the good word, but—


MAALI MOUSA: —I think—

AMY GOODMAN: Maali Mousa—

MAALI MOUSA: I think it’s four months—

AMY GOODMAN: We have just gotten this word from BBC. It says, “A Palestinian prisoner has ended his 66-day hunger strike over his detention in a deal that will see him released in two months, [Israeli] officials say.” That’s according to Israeli officials. The Israeli justice ministry said it’s decided to end Khader Adnan’s administrative detention but that he’ll remain in custody until April 17th.

MAALI MOUSA: Yes, that’s right. I think this is the—this is the true information. But in the same time, Khader was saying always that, “Don’t hear from anyone that I broke my hunger strike until I tell you by phone.” So we are waiting for a phone call from Khader to say that he ended his hunger strike or he holds it on. So, we are not sure from the hunger—that he stopped the strike or not.

AMY GOODMAN: So, your brother has been held without charge for how long?

MAALI MOUSA: Until now, it’s 67 days. They arrested him on December 17th, 2011, and now—without any charge, of course.

AMY GOODMAN: How often were you able to see him?

MAALI MOUSA: We visited him before two days. It was on Sunday. Yes, it was on Sunday. We visited him in the hospital of the [inaudible].

AMY GOODMAN: What did he look like?

MAALI MOUSA: He was very, very, very thin. His eyes were sunk, and his teeth were wide, wide. And it seems that his lips are smaller and so soft. His skin is so soft. And his hands were so cold and so yellow.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did he tell you then?

MAALI MOUSA: He told us that, “I am going on this hunger strike until I have an honorable deal or getting out from this jail.” But in the same time, his spirits were very high.

AMY GOODMAN: Was that the first time you had seen him, Maali?

MAALI MOUSA: Yes, yes, this is the first time for me, the third for his wife, and the second for my father.

AMY GOODMAN: And had you tried to see him before?

MAALI MOUSA: Yes, but we were refused.

AMY GOODMAN: When were—why were you refused?

MAALI MOUSA: No one knows that. They didn’t say anything. We applied for a visit through Al-Damir Association. And when they refused it, we applied through Red Cross, International Red Cross. And they approved us to go there. But Khader was saying all the time that “Don’t make the occupation—that the occupation is trying to whiten his page. Don’t believe him that he’s good, that the occupation is good,” because he was arrested for almost eight times before, and we have never visited him in the prison. Just my mother was allowed for a few times.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Van Esveld, this issue of being refused to be able to see these prisoners who have not been charged, who are being held—Arraba is speaking to us from—I mean, Maali Mousa is speaking to us from Arraba on the West Bank. Where is the prison?

BILL VAN ESVELD: Where is the prison? He is now—Khader Adnan is now being detained in a hospital in Zefat, or Safed, inside Israel. But, of course, his family, as we just heard, is in the West Bank. This is an aspect of the case that isn’t discussed much, but it’s actually quite important. It’s a violation of Israel’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions to detain people from the occupied West Bank in prisons, or hospitals, in this case, that are inside Israel, precisely for this reason, that families are not able to visit their loved ones in detention without special permits, special Israeli permits, which are very difficult to come by, which can take months to apply for and finally receive. So, in many cases, not just this case but in the vast majority of cases, if someone is detained inside Israel, the family may not be able to see them for, you know, four to six months at a time. They may be released from prison before the family is actually able to see them.

AMY GOODMAN: Is this unusual, because of the international attention on Khader Adnan’s case, that the Supreme Court is hearing it and he, at least according to the latest news—this is all developing as we’re on air—is ending his hunger strike and will be released on April 17th?

BILL VAN ESVELD: Clearly, you can see that international pressure and attention is changing the way the Israeli authorities have behaved with this case. It’s not unusual, formerly, that you could appeal, as a Palestinian, a military court ruling. Remember, all of the things that have happened so far in his case have been in the military court system. It’s not unusual that you could appeal that to the civilian high court, the Supreme Court of Israel. But usually these things take a very long time. In this case, the case was moved up and then moved up again, so that the hearing is now being held today.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of the support actions, Maali, what difference they have made around the world?

I think we may have just lost Maali. Let’s try for Danny Morrison, who is in Belfast. Danny, how you heard about this case—in your case, in the case of Bobby Sands, he died on the 66th day of a hunger strike, which is actually the day that Khader Adnan is in right now. We heard his condition, though we heard that he may have ended this strike right now. But how you heard, and why this is so important to you?

DANNY MORRISON: Well, I mean, I’m the secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust, and we maintain a website dedicated to the memory of Bobby Sands and the principles for which he fought and died. And we have an international section, and regularly we would report on the plight of Palestinians. And, of course, also from Ireland, people have been involved in the flotillas going to aid Gaza, which has been murderously interfered with by the Israeli authorities. Last Friday night, there was a very large protest outside Belfast City Hall, which was supported by Assembly members, Northern Ireland Assembly members, mostly from the Sinn Fein party. And of course there’s been protests in Dublin.

And it’s—I mean, I’m glad that Khader, if these reports are correct, has ended his hunger strike, and I’m glad also that his release has been expedited. But doesn’t it ridicule how allegedly dangerous he was in the first place, when Israel can turn around and say, “Well, we’re releasing him in April”? And it shows you that there’s actually absolutely no information or valid information or intelligence that they can put before a authority in order to judicially process Khader—that is, if you accept that Israel has any judicial right to judge Palestinian people.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you all for being with us. We’ll continue to follow this case, and we’ll update you as we hear it, even on today’s show. Bill Van Esveld, researcher at Human Rights Watch focusing on Israel-Palestine, based in Jerusalem, is in New York this week. Maali Mousa, thanks for joining us, Khader Adnan’s sister, speaking to us from Arraba in the West Bank. And Danny Morrison, who we’ve just been talking to, Irish republican writer and activist, secretary of the Bobby Sands Trust, speaking to us from Belfast, Ireland.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, why did a young student on a whitewater rafting trip end up being in a boat with a New York undercover agent who was investigating Muslim students? Stay with us.

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