Israel's top court weighs release of Palestinian hunger striker

AFP , Wednesday 19 Aug 2015

Mohammed Allan
A Bedouin demonstrator holds a sign during a protest in the southern town of Rahat, Israel, in support of Islamic Jihad activist Mohammed Allan, who is in the ninth week of a hunger strike against his detention without trial, August 18, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Israel's top court considered Wednesday whether to free a Palestinian detainee whose two-month hunger strike has put his life at risk, with authorities fearing his death could worsen tensions in the occupied territories.

The case of Mohammed Allan, 31, has been closely followed by Palestinians and has put intense pressure on Israeli authorities, who have detained him without charge since November.

Israel's High Court began a hearing on Wednesday afternoon on whether to release him due to his health. The proceedings were being held in secret in order to discuss his medical condition and security files.

Discussions were also said to have taken place outside the court with the aim of reaching a deal.

Palestinian officials said on Wednesday that Israel had offered to free Allan on November 3 if he agreed to end his hunger strike, which began on June 18.

There was no immediate confirmation of the offer from the Israeli side, and Allan's lawyer declined comment when contacted by AFP.

Rights group Adalah, which has petitioned the court for Allan's release, however told AFP it was continuing to demand his immediate freedom and warned that his condition had further deteriorated.

Allan regained consciousness on Tuesday after being in a coma for several days, but pledged to resume fasting if Israel did not resolve his case within 24 hours, a Palestinian activist group said.

Doctors had put him on a respirator and treated him with fluids and vitamins after he lost consciousness.

Allan has been held in what is known as administrative detention, which allows for internment without charge for six-month intervals that can be renewed indefinitely.

His lawyers argue that his health condition negates Israeli authorities' claim that he poses a security risk.

November 3, the date Israel is said to have proposed to release him, would mark the end of a second six-month interval for Allan.

Israeli authorities use administrative detention to hold Palestinians they deem to be security risks while not divulging what the authorities view as sensitive intelligence.

Militant movement Islamic Jihad describes Allan, a lawyer from the West Bank, as a member, as does Israel.

Some 340 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention, and detainees have regularly gone on hunger strike to protest.

While Allan was not well-known several weeks ago, his case has now captured the attention of the Palestinian public.

There are fears that his death could lead to an escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank, with tensions having already increased following last month's firebombing of a Palestinian home that killed an 18-month-old and his father. The firebombing has been attributed to Israeli Jewish extremists.

Since the July 31 firebombing, Israeli security forces have shot dead three Palestinians carrying out stabbing attacks.

But while they are concerned with potential unrest, Israeli authorities are also reluctant to be seen as giving in to what they view as "blackmail" by detainees.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement on Wednesday that Allan's release "would constitute a reward for his hunger strike and could encourage mass hunger strikes among security detainees".

Allan's protest has also raised questions over whether Israel would seek to invoke a law passed last month allowing prisoners to be force-fed when their lives are in danger.

Doctors and activists strongly oppose the law, including those who say the practice amounts to torture and robs Palestinians of a legitimate form of protest.

The new law requires the authorities to seek a court order to allow force feeding, which they have not done.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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