Former Hunger Striker Samer Issawi Arrested

July 3, 2014 by  


By Karin Friedemann, TMO

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On June 23, 2014 occupation soldiers raided the Jerusalem home of Samer Issawi, one of the Palestinian prisoners swapped in August 2011 in exchange for the release of “kidnapped” Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Issawi had been originally detained in 2002 by the Israeli army in Ramallah as part of Operation Defensive Shield during the Second Intifada. The now free man Issawi was then detained in July 2012 for trying to catch a bus in a Jewish suburb of Jesrusalem. He was held in prison for 17 months but was released with huge celebration last December after his 266 day hunger strike caused global outcry.

His sister Shireen was arrested with their brothers Medhat and Shadi on March 6, 2014. Shireen, an attorney, was accused of “passing messages” from prisoners. Her detention has been extended by an Israeli Court three times. In January 2013 another brother, Ahmad Issawi’s home was bulldozed.

Last Monday his mother, Layla Issawi, posted on Facebook, “Tens of Israeli army officers are in front of our house passing out tickets to everyone passing by. They must be bored.”

A few minutes later, around 7pm, she again posted: “World, they arrested Samer. The military in big numbers raided the house.”

Electronic Intifada reports that Israeli authorities interrogated his younger brother Shadi earlier in the day. He was to tell Samer to come in for interrogation.

Over 500 Palestinians have been detained in a punitive crackdown after three Israelis went missing on June 12, 2014 while hitchhiking between Jewish settlements in Hebron. In addition to Samer Issawi, 52 other former prisoners released during the October 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap agreement have been rearrested, according to Gavan Kelly, an advocacy officer for Addameer Prisoner Support Network. Another of the men, Nael Barghouti, has already served 33 years in prison before he was released the exchange, Ma’an News Agency reported.

“Seven of these detainees already went before an Israeli court in Haifa and are being tried on previous charges [from before their 2011 release,” Kelly told The Electronic Intifada, referring to a mandate that allows former Palestinian prisoners to be retried on the same charges after being released from prison. “It is very important to note that the evidence used against [Palestinians] in these military courts is ‘secret.’ And most of them risk being reissued prison sentences that are very long.”

In the past few days, several Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli soldiers and Gaza has been repeatedly targeted by aerial bombing causing huge fires.
Many Palestinian institutions have been raided and ransacked in the past few days by the Israeli military: Birzeit University, Al-Quds University and the American Arab University in Jenin, the Ibdaa Cultural Center in Bethlehem-area Dheisheh refugee camp, and even the media offices of Russian Times. The Palestinian Authority accompanied Israeli soldiers in their raid of the Russian TV station.
Israeli authorities repeatedly referred to the US in justifying their actions.

Former chief military rabbi Avihai Ronsky defended Israel’s collective punishment measures: “Only with a sharp blow will we make it clear that Jewish blood is not cheap. The same goes today: only by dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which caused millions of deaths, did the US bring an end to World War II.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, justified a bill introduced in the Knesset which would allow force-feeding of hunger striking Palestinian political prisoners by saying: “in Guantanamo the Americans are using the method of force-feeding too.”

An Israeli court on June 26 officially extended Issawi’s indefinite detention. Issawi risks having the remaining twenty years of a thirty-year sentence reinstated. 

Attorney Farah Baydadsy told the Electronic Intifada that Issawi “appeared very tired during the hearing on Thursday.”

Issawi’s lawyer told his family that Israel’s intelligence services, the Shabak, have interrogated him nearly non-stop since Monday.

“He could barely lift his head,” Bayadsy said. “He looked like he hasn’t slept at all … and the security was very restrictive, more than usual.”

“The first part of the hearing lasted only fifteen minutes,” she explained. “The judge took a ten-minute break, came back and ended after another ten minutes, rejecting the appeal.”

Issawi siblings Shireen and Medhat also had hearings on the same Thursday in the Israeli district court in Jerusalem that ended in postponement until Sunday, reports Electronic Intifada. Shireen’s family has so far been denied requests to visit her in prison. Mariam Barghouti, 20, a solidarity activist who shared a cell with Shireen, reported that Shireen had become very thin, weighing about 86 pounds. “She said she is experiencing a lot of back pain from the positions she is handcuffed [in].”

“Their mother was crying,” Bayadsy added. “It is the first day of Ramadan, the holy month, and she had to go through this.”

“Because her family has been repeatedly targeted for arrest and imprisonment since Israeli forces occupied their village in 1967, Layla Issawi, better known as Um Rafaat, has not shared a meal with all seven of her living children at the same time in more than a decade, writes Patrick Strickland.

“It’s clear that they are targeting Shireen because of how active she was in raising support for Samer during his hunger strike.” said their mother.

“This is not just my life,” she said. “This is the life of all Palestinian mothers. There are families in Gaza with three or four martyrs each … and Israel has killed some entire families there.”

The number of Palestinian minors held in Israeli jails has risen to 250 detained children following the Israeli military sweep of occupied West Bank waged during the past two weeks.

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