Erekat appeals to EU to free Palestinian prisoner

Samer Issawi, re-arrested after being released as part of the Schalit deal, is in critical condition due to nine month hunger strike.

Chief PLO negotiator Erekat 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Chief PLO negotiator Erekat 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat has appealed to the European Union to intervene on behalf of Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi, who has been conducting a hunger strike for nearly nine months while sitting in an Israeli prison and whose health is quickly deteriorating, British newspaper the Guardian reported on Wednesday.
In the letter, Erekat called on the EU to take "immediate and concrete steps" to bring about the release of Issawi. "Should Mr. Issawi die, we will...hold the international community partly responsible for its tolerance of Israel's appalling actions which have created this terrible situation," he added.
Issawi, who was originally sentenced in 2002 to 30 years in prison for terrorism-related activity, was released in 2011 as part of the Egypt-brokered Gilad Schalit and prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel. However he was arrested again in 2012 at a check point in the West Bank when the IDF said he had violated the terms of his release.
Since mid-2012, he has been conducting a hunger strike, accepting only vitamins, infusions and water to keep him alive.
Erekat's letter claimed that Issawi's life "hangs in the balance," and warned that his death could lead to a new round of violence in the West Bank, the report said.
"The situation is potentially explosive and any harm that comes to him will undoubtedly lead to a serious eruption of violence," Erekat wrote.
Erekat's EU appeal comes as 3,000 Palestinian prisoners recently refused to take their meals on Prisoner's Day, in protest of being held in Israeli prisons.
4,800 Palestinian prisoners are currently being held in Israeli jails and detention centers around the country.
Though Palestinians have attacked Israel for poor prison conditions, Israel has defended itself with Ofer Prison Warden Yaakov Shalom recently telling journalists, "Palestinian prisoners' access to medical care is better than what I can get as a citizen."
Yaakov Lapin, Reuters and The Media Line contributed to this report.