‘Release or death’: Palestinian in Israeli jail stops taking medicine

Beit Hanina, occupied East Jerusalem – For the past week, Palestinian prisoner Amin Shweiki, 61, refused to receive his insulin injections in protest at his imprisonment for months without trial or formal charges.

Israeli forces arrested a diabetic Amin on May 17 at his home under the administrative detention law, as part of an arrest campaign (PDF) in the city following protests against the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the bombing of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Amin, a civil engineering graduate from the UK, is one of 520 Palestinian prisoners held under administrative detention, a policy that allows the Israeli police and army to imprison Palestinians indefinitely, with “secret information”, without formal charges or charges. allow them to stand trial – laws that originate from the British occupation of Palestine.

A day before his planned release on September 16, an Israeli court extended Amin’s administrative detention order for a further four months, prompting him to go on strike at the Naqab prison in the south of the country, where he was held. found secluded.

“Either they release me or I die here,” he told his wife and lawyer.

The father of seven usually injects himself with three insulin injections every day, as well as medications for his heart, cholesterol and kidneys, according to his wife. He is a glass merchant and owns a well-known glass shop near the Old City of Jerusalem.

“I’m worried about him,” his 59-year-old wife, Hanaa Shweiki, told Al Jazeera from the garden of their home in Beit Hanina.

“You feel exhausted and say you can’t do any real exercise like you always do anymore,” he said, adding that he reports experiencing frequent urination, intense thirst and bitterness in the mouth.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS), Amin is also one of five prisoners with various illnesses, including chronic ones, who are resisting his administrative detention by refusing to take his medications in different prisons. The other four, who hail from the occupied West Bank, are Ayed Dudin, Yousif Qazzaz, Ahmad Abu Sundus and Yasser Budrusawi.

Hanaa Shweiki, 59, drives for five hours to see her husband incarcerated once a month in Naqab prison. [Zena al-Tahhan/Al Jazeera]

For the past month, the issue of Palestinian prisoners took center stage after six prisoners managed to escape from Israel’s Gilboa high-security prison through a tunnel in the north of the country at dawn on September 6.

The breakout was widely hailed as a victory by the Palestinians, most of whom view the detainees in Israeli jails, numbering 4,650 Palestinians, including 200 children, as political prisoners who are being held due to the Israeli military occupation or resistance. to her.

Since then, prisons have witnessed an increase in tensions due to allegations of abuse against the six fugitives who were later arrested again, as well as Israeli policies of collective punishment against Palestinian prisoners, who have continually threatened to carry out a massive hunger strike.

Currently, six other Palestinian prisoners (Kayed Fasfous, Miqdad Qawasmi, Hisham Abu Hawash, Rayeq Bisharat, Alaa al-Araj and Shadi Abu Aker) are on an indefinite hunger strike against their administrative detention.

Fasfous and Qawasmi, who have been incarcerated for two months, are seriously deteriorating in health and have been hospitalized, according to groups of prisoners.

Israel renewed mass arrest campaign against hundreds of Palestinians in Jerusalem came after nearly two months of political upheaval in April and May that saw Palestinians in the occupied territories and within Israel protesting the forced displacement of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the assault on the Al-Aqsa mosque and days of deadly bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Amjad Abu Asab, head of a committee of the families of Jerusalem prisoners, told Al Jazeera that 14 Jerusalem Palestinians arrested in May remain in administrative detention.

“They were all superficially questioned and given administrative detention orders,” which he said was part of Israel’s strategy to “instill a fear factor in the hope of regaining control over the lives of Palestinians in Jerusalem” after the massive protests in April and May.

Violent arrest

Back in Beit Hanina, Hanaa recalled the moment of her husband’s arrest just before noon on May 17 while they were having breakfast in the garden, describing it as “extremely violent.”

“They came to our house with a very large force, about 25 people, including female officers and a dog,” Hanaa said. “They came in and started walking around the house, they didn’t even give my daughters time to get dressed and they didn’t want to listen to us.”

“They were searching the house in a very provocative way, like they were doing it for fun. My daughter was filming, but they surrounded her, took her phone and deleted the video. When I tried to defend her, the officer directed us to the dog, ”he said.

“Amin started yelling at them, and then they grabbed him and slammed his head on the table.”

According to Hanaa and Abu Asab, Amin suffered a broken arm and several ribs during his arrest, which he later discovered at the al-Mascoubiyeh detention center in Jerusalem, where he was transferred after his arrest.

In a short video taken towards the end of his arrest, Amin is heard saying to Israeli forces: “Show me one thing you have against me!”

His lawyer Mahmoud Mohammad told Al Jazeera that the Israeli forces informally accused Amin of “being active in Jerusalem with Hamas”, the armed movement that runs the Gaza Strip, but did not question him or present him with evidence.

“It’s ridiculous,” Hanaa said. “Amin is getting old, he is always at home with me, we are close to each other and our children have taken over most of the work that he used to do; He only goes to the workshop and the factory sometimes ”.

What can we expect from them? Just injustice, ”Hanaa added, referring to the Israeli occupation.

In 2013, Israeli forces demolished his home in Beit Hanina under the pretext of “not having a permit”, despite having applied for one, according to Hanaa. He said Israeli authorities gave them 20 minutes before the demolition. They rebuilt their house again in 2016 after obtaining the permit.

Palestinian activists and residents in the occupied territories say they are finding it difficult to obtain building permits due to discrimination from the Israeli authorities. Israel rejected 98 percent of Palestinian construction applications in Area C of the West Bank between 2016 and 2018, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Restrict Palestinians in Jerusalem

Amin is a former prisoner who was released in 2009 after two years in prison. According to his wife, he was sentenced at the time for “giving gifts to children in the Al-Aqsa mosque.”

Before his incarceration, he served as treasurer for the Islamic Heritage Committee at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, considered the third holiest site in Islam. The committee was closed in 2003 after 11 years in operation, according to Waqf officials.

Israel outlaws all Palestinian political parties, including Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), as “terrorist groups”. He regularly condemns many Palestinians under the pretext of “belonging to an illegal organization” or “rendering services to one” due to their political affiliations or any kind of peaceful activity.

In Jerusalem, since the 1993 Oslo Accords, this has materialized in a war against Palestinian institutions, research centers, charities and even community events, which Israeli forces have systematically raided, outlawed and shut down and arrested many of the employees, as part of an effort to constrain Palestinian voices or mobilization in the city, in the absence of Palestinian leadership there.

In June, Israeli forces preemptively closed a market in the residential neighborhood of Beit Hanina organized as part of the Palestinian Economic Week, which included local markets across the country, threatening organizers to maintain it and claiming Hamas affiliations.

“There is no home in Palestine without a prisoner, a martyr or a demolished home,” Hanaa said.

Amin’s lawyer, Mohammad, told Al Jazeera that a hearing will be held next week on his appeal against the renewal of the arrest warrant. The judge can decide to keep Amin in custody for the remainder of the four months, which can continue for an indefinite period, or reduce the period.

In the case of a negative result, the lawyer intends to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The head of the family prisoners committee, Abu Asab, said that prisoners in administrative detention “live in the unknown.”

“They don’t see the horizon and they don’t know when their pain will end.”


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