Palestinian journalist’s health deteriorates as hunger strike enters 46th day

As his health steadily deteriorates, Palestinian journalist Muhammad Al-Qeeq has lost his ability to speak or walk.

By Noam Rotem

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the journalist Muhammad Al-Qeeq, 33, who has been on hunger strike for 36 days in Israeli prisons, since Israeli forces arrested him from his home last month, Nablus, West Bank, December 31, 2015. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz)
Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the journalist Muhammad Al-Qeeq, 33, who has been on hunger strike for 36 days in Israeli prisons, since Israeli forces arrested him from his home last month, Nablus, West Bank, December 31, 2015. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz)

Forty-six days after he began his hunger strike, Palestinian journalist Muhammad Al-Qeeq has lost the ability to speak or walk, and has begun to vomit and urinate blood. According to his lawyer, Ashraf Abu Snena, Al-Qeeq can barely communicate using signals.

He is currently being treated at Emek Medical Center in the northern city of Afula, where is both his legs and one arm are handcuffed to his bed at all times.

One of the symptoms of a full hunger strike is the danger of sudden death after seven weeks of refusing food. As his health deteriorates, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein may be forced to weigh force feeding Al-Qeeq.

Emek Medical Center has refused to respond to questions over whether it has assembled a committee to determine the necessity force feeding, claiming that it is prevented from providing information on detainee patients under the auspices of the Israel Prison Service (IPS). The IPS stated that the detainee is currently being held under medical surveillance at the hospital, and that it cannot provide information on his current state. It added that Al-Qeeq was handcuffed “according to regulations and in coordination with evaluations of the danger he poses, and in accordance with hospital conditions.”

Al-Qeeq, from the West Bank village of Dura near Hebron, works as a reporter for the Saudi news channel “Almajd.” He was arrested on the night of November 21, 2015 when Israeli soldiers blew up the front door of his house and took him in for interrogation at Israel’s Kishon (Jalame) detention center. He was not allowed to make contact with either his wife or his attorney for many days.

According to Abu Snena, Al-Qeeq began his hunger strike four days after the beginning of his interrogation, when the latter understood that his interrogation was politically-motivated. Sources close to Al-Qeeq state that he was interrogated for “journalistic incitement,” and when he refused to cooperate, he was put in administrative detention for a period of six months, which can be renewed indefinitely.

Al-Qeeq’s hunger strike has thus far been answered with silence from all sides. The Israeli media is silent, while the Palestinian Authority’s prisoner organizations are not going out of their way to cover the strike as they did with previous detainees — possibly because Al-Qeeq is a known critic of the PA, and they want to avoid turning him into a martyr.

The Shin Bet claims that al-Qeeq is a member of Hamas who was previously jailed several times due to his activities in the organization. His current arrest, according to the Shin Bet, came following “founded suspicions of involvement in terror activities with Hamas.” Even before he was placed in administrative detention, the Shin Bet told +972′s Hebrew sister site, Local Call, that “since he cannot be given a criminal trial, considering the intelligence on him, and considering the danger that would posed to the region should he be released, the options for imprisoning him in administrative detention will be examined.”

Al-Qeeq recently published a number of articles criticizing the PA, denouncing the lack of freedom of the press in the West Bank as well as the security forces who arrest political activists.

A number of people close to Al-Qeeq claim he was tortured during his interrogation, where he was subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold, and other forms of abuse.

Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and author of the blog o139.org, subtitled “Godwin doesn’t live here any more.” This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is also a blogger. Read it here.

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