Palestinian hunger striker said to be in critical condition

AP , Wednesday 7 Oct 2020

Maher al-Akhras, 49, began his hunger strike after he was arrested and placed into administrative detention in late July

Relatives and supporters of a Palestinian man held without charge by Israel said he was in critical condition in an Israeli hospital Wednesday following a hunger strike of more than 70 days.

Maher al-Akhras, 49, began his hunger strike after he was arrested and placed into administrative detention in late July. Administrative detention is an Israeli policy that allows it to detain suspected militants without filing charges, sometimes for months at a time with multiple extensions.

Al-Akhras' wife, Taghreed, told The Associated Press that her husband has survived on water alone while he demands his release. Speaking from his room at Kaplan Hospital in central Israel, she said al-Akhras has been hospitalized since Sept. 6 and he was too weak to speak or get up to go to the bathroom.

``He lost half of his weight. He suffers spasms,'' she said. ``He has a constant strong headache and constant buzzing in the ears, fatigue, with no energy to talk to me.''

A medical official declined to provide details on his condition, saying only that it was stable. The official, citing confidential medical information, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Israel's Shin Bet security agency said al-Akhras was arrested on July 27 based on information that he is active in the Islamic Jihad militant group and was involved in ``activities that endanger public safety.'' It said he has been arrested five previous times for involvement in militant activities.

But al-Akhras' wife said he is not an activist in any group, and only has campaigned for the rights of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

His lawyer, Ahlam Haddad, said her client rejected an offer to be released at the end of his current administrative detention on Nov. 26 and demands to be let go immediately.

His wife said al-Akhras knows his life is in danger. ``He says this is the only way he can achieve justice,'' she said.

The Palestinians and human rights groups say administrative detention violates the right to due process, since evidence is withheld from the prisoner while they are held for lengthy periods without being charged, tried or convicted.

Qadoura Fares, the head of the Palestinian prisoners' association, said: ``Administrative detention is a crime and should end. We hold Israel fully responsible for his life and call for his immediate release.''

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