Ashton to Israel: Save Palestinian hunger striker

Prisoner Khader Adnan on 63rd day of hunger strike; UN's Falk warns of "third intifada" if Adnan dies.

Palestinians holding poster of Khader Adnan 390 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Palestinians holding poster of Khader Adnan 390 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, on Saturday called on Israel to “preserve” the health of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, 33, who has been on a hunger strike for 63 days.
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel has warned that it is not possible for Adnan to survive a hunger strike of more than 70 days.
The High Court of Justice has agreed to hear a petition on his behalf, but as of press time, it was not known when that hearing would take place.
Ashton’s office said she was “following with great concern reports about the deteriorating health condition of Khader Adnan.” Her office added that the policy chief and the EU had long been concerned about Israel’s policy of administrative detention, in which Palestinians were held without formal charges being brought against them.
“Detainees have the right to be informed about the charges underlying any detention and be subject to a fair trial,” her office said.
Adnan, a father of two from Arrabe, near Jenin, was arrested in his home on December 17, but has yet to be charged.
He was in Ofer Prison near Ramallah until he was transferred to the Galilee Medical Faculty in Safed.
There have been media reports that Adnan belonged to Islamic Jihad, but the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) and the IDF have not confirmed that.
The IDF said in a statement that Adnan was arrested “for activities that threaten regional security.” It has not given further details.
On Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas instructed Palestinian envoys to urge the international community, including the United Nations, to pressure Israel to release Adnan.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat filed a request last week for Adnan’s release with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho.
Already on Wednesday, Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, urged the international community to pressure Israel on Adnan’s behalf.
“In view of the emergency of his situation, the government of Israel must take immediate and effective action to safeguard Mr. Adnan’s life, while upholding his rights,” said Falk, who is on a fact-finding mission in the Palestinian territories.
“The improper treatment of thousands of Palestinian prisoners by the government of Israel should be of great concern to the international community, and it is a problem that I am paying close attention to in the context of my ongoing visit to the region,” he said.
In an interview with the Egyptian news organization aharamonline published Friday, Falk warned, “If Adnan is to die, a third intifada is to rise... He will be considered a martyr.”
The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, has also called for Adnan to be set free.
On Friday, 500 people rallied in Bil’in, in the West Bank, on his behalf. Some dressed in prison garb. They spray-painted his face onto a concrete section of the security barrier that separates Bil’in from the Modi’in Illit settlement.
On Friday, at least 5,000 people took to the streets of Gaza, waving a mix of black Islamic Jihad flags, the green flags of Hamas and the yellow flags of Fatah.
Witnesses said hundreds had also demonstrated in Jenin.
Palestinian officials said many other prisoners in Israeli jails had started hunger strikes to support Adnan, including Hassan Salama, a senior commander of Hamas’s Izzadin Kassam armed wing who is serving life terms for masterminding suicide bombings against Israelis.
Palestinian prisoners have often staged hunger strikes to try to gain better conditions or to denounce the Israeli “occupation.”
However, such protests usually end quickly and officials said no one had persisted for as long as Adnan, who is married with two children and whose wife is expecting a third child.
The Islamic Jihad’s Nafez Azzam accused Arab states and Western powers of ignoring Adnan’s protest.
“Shame on the nations of hundreds of millions [of Muslims] for the fact that Khader Adnan is still in prison,” he said in his Friday sermon in Gaza.
Hamas said it was pushing the Arab League and Egypt to press for the release of Adnan.
“The Palestinian people, with all its components and its factions, will never abandon the hero prisoners, especially those who lead this hunger strike battle,” said Hamas’s top leader in the Strip, Ismail Haniyeh.
Khaled Abu Toameh and Reuters contributed to this report.