Palestinian released from Israeli prison following eight-month hunger strike

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Samer al-Issawi, a Palestinian prisoner who went on a hunger strike in an Israeli prison as a protest against his imprisonment, was released on Monday to his home in East Jerusalem.

Issawi returned Monday to his home in the Issawiyeh neighborhood in East Jerusalem after his release from the Shatta prison in northern Israel. Hundreds of people came to welcome him home and celebrate his release, despite an Israeli order given to his family not to have a public party for his arrival.

After his release, Issawi said during a TV interview, "It is our obligation as freedom fighters to free all the Palestinian political prisoners!".

Issawi was arrested in 2002 in Ramallah, during the second intifada by the Israeli army for shooting at Israeli vehicles and reportedly also charged with making pipe bombs. He was sentenced to more than 25 years in prison.

In 2011, during a prisoner exchange deal Israel made with Hamas, Issawi was released along with over a thousand other Palestinian prisoners. He was released under restrictive conditions and forbidden to go outside of Jerusalem, his residence. However, after only nine months from his release date he was arrested again for breaking the conditions. He was required to serve the rest of the 2002 sentence and stay in prison till 2029.

As a protest against the punishment, Issawi began a publicized hunger strike. For more than 260 days he was fed water, vitamins, and additional materials only by infusion. Consequentially, his medical condition deteriorated and became critical. According to the Los Angeles Times, Israel decided to start a negotiation lest Issawi's death in the Israeli prison cause violence from the Palestinians in the West Bank. In the end, Issawi agreed to stay in the Israeli prison for an additional eight months to serve the administrative arrest he was under and in exchange he stopped his hunger strike.

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