Palestinian journalist starts new hunger strike

Hunger-striking jailed journalist Muhammad al-Qiq.

Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq has begun a new hunger strike in protest of how Israel has once again detained him without charge or trial.

On January 15, al-Qiq was arrested at a military checkpoint near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. He was returning from a protest in Bethlehem at the time.

Since then, he has been under interrogation while his detention was repeatedly extended.

He announced his hunger strike after he was issued with an administrative order — special orders issued by Israeli courts that allow prisoners to be held indefinitely without trial. Orders for administrative detention can be indefinitely renewed.

Less than a year ago, al-Qiq refused meals for more than 90 days while being held indefinitely without trail, to protest the use of the administrative detention order against him.

Al-Qiq ended his hunger strike after Israel agreed not to renew the administrative detention order. He was released in May.

Fayha Shalash, al-Qiq’s wife, said the latest administrative detention order was proof of Israel’s failure to find any evidence on which it could indict her husband.

At the time of his arrest last month, a spokesperson for Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic spy agency, told The Jerusalem Post that al-Qiq was arrested “on the basis of suspicions of involvement in incitement to terrorism against Israel and renewed activity with Hamas”.

But the Israeli authorities have yet to present any evidence to support those accusations. That is despite Israel expanding its definition of “incitement” over the past two years.

As a result, many Palestinians — including journalists — have been charged with the offence, based on comments they have made or content they have viewed on the Internet.

In late January, al-Qiq was placed in solitary confinement at the Hadarim prison in Israel.

His hunger strike coincides with the publication of a new report documenting a surge in violent raids conducted by the Israel Prison Service against Palestinian prisoners.

Jointly issued by a number of Palestinian human rights groups, the report states that dozens of aggressive night-time raids were conducted against Palestinians held in Israeli jails at the end of January and start of February.

Some of the raids occurred after two wardens at separate prisons were, according to Israeli media, stabbed with a screwdriver, suffering light injuries.

Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Authority head of prisoner affairs, reported that prisoners were forced to fully undress and stand naked outside, in the cold weather, while guards ransacked their belongings.

Other raids by officers at Nafha prison were, however, before the stabbing incidents. Some prisoners were reportedly assaulted during those raids.

In another case of collective punishment, the Israeli prison authorities also reportedly placed 15 men in solitary confinement after the stabbing incident at Nafha.

About 530 Palestinians are now being held under administrative detention by Israel. A total of 590 Palestinians — including 128 children — were arrested by Israel in January alone.

[Reprinted from Electronic Intifada.]