Prisoner Who Held One of Longest Hunger Strikes Released
During incarceration, Issawi wrote: 'I draw my strength from all the free people in the world who want an end to the Israeli occupation.'
Israel released on Monday Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi, who had staged a nearly 9-month hunger strike in protest over his incarceration.
The release comes as a result of deal made in April between Issawi and Israel in which Issawi would end his near record hunger strike in exchange for 8 additional months in detention, for a total of 17 months, after which he would get a suspended sentence.
Israel reportedly "offered to deport" Jerusalem-born Issawi to a European or other UN nation in April, to which he said, "I do not accept to be deported out of my homeland."
As Agence France-Presse reports,
Issawi was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to 26 years in prison for "terrorist activities." He was freed in 2011 as part of a prisoner swap of around 1,000 Palestinians in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by militants from the Gaza Strip.
He was re-arrested in July 2012, Jerusalem Post reports, "for violating the terms of his release by leaving the Jerusalem area and shortly thereafter began his hunger strike."
Ahram Online reports that his July arrest was made under Israel's administrative detention law.
The law, which has been in place since the end of the British mandate in Palestine in 1948, allows for the arrest of Palestinians if they are deemed a "threat" to Israel's national security.
Supporters of Issawi greeted him Monday evening when he arrived in his home village of Issawiya in East Jerusalem. “It is our obligation as freedom fighters to free all the Palestinian political prisoners!” Issawi said in an interview after being freed.
In an op-ed published by the UK's Guardian in March, Issawi wrote that his hunger strike was his
last remaining stone to throw at the tyrants and jailers in the face of the racist occupation that humiliates our people.
I draw my strength from all the free people in the world who want an end to the Israeli occupation. My weak heartbeat endures thanks to this solidarity and support; my weak voice gains its strength from voices that are louder, and can penetrate the prison walls.
My battle is not just for my own freedom. My fellow hunger strikers, Ayman, Tarik and Ja'afar, and I are fighting a battle for all Palestinians against the Israeli occupation and its prisons. What I endure is little compared to the sacrifice of Palestinians in Gaza, where thousands have died or been injured as a result of brutal Israeli attacks and an unprecedented and inhuman siege.
However, more support is needed. Israel could not continue its oppression without the support of western governments. These governments, particularly the British, which has a historic responsibility for the tragedy of my people, should impose sanctions on the Israeli regime until it ends the occupation, recognises Palestinian rights, and frees all Palestinian political prisoners.
According to human rights group B'Tselem, roughly 5,000 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisons.