Prisoners recount hunger strike conditions 19Nov11 November 19, 2011

Ma’an News Agency  -  18 November 2011

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — In late September, prisoners in jails across Israel launched an open hunger strike to protest harsh prison conditions, in particular the practice of solitary confinement.

Detainees refused food for 20 consecutive days until Israel agreed to meet their demands.

The detainee affairs ministry in Ramallah released a report Thursday detailing the experiences of prisoners during the strike.

Shadi al-Sharafa, a prisoner in Ashkelon jail, said striking detainees were put in separate cells and banned from communicating with each other.

They slept on the floor as their mattresses and blankets were confiscated, and clothes, soap and all electronic goods were seized, he said.

Striking detainees were denied medical treatment and family visits, he added, describing the measures as attempts to pressure them to end the protest.

“While we were on strike, we were beaten up. Despite the fact that according to the law … prisoners on strike have the right to have a one-hour outdoor break, we were prevented from (taking one).”

He said prisoners tried to complain to the prison administration “but it was useless.”

Al-Sharafa noted that prisoners suspended the strike because the prison administration agreed to their demands, but said Israeli authorities have not met their commitments.

Prisoners are still held in solitary confinement, including Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Ahmad Saadat, who has been in an isolation cell for three years.

Muhammad Abdul Muhsin, from Abu Dhis, said authorities transferred the prisoners between cells to deliberately tire them out during the strike.

His fellow inmates at Eshel prison refused to sign a document stating that if they died during the strike, it would be their own responsibility, he said.

He said prison authorities confiscated part of the money detainees were sent by families, estimating that seized funds amounted to 26,000 shekels ($6,986).

Ahmad Al-Arida, from Nablus, added that guards would wake prisoners at 5 a.m. for cell searches during the strike.

“The prison administration used to provoke us and to pressure us,” he said.

“We were prevented to meet with lawyers. salt was taken from us and we were told many times that the strike will be suspended and the we will fail and we won’t achieve our goals,” he added.

Majdi Mabrouk, from Al-Ain refugee camp, said that the prison authorities confiscated cleaning products leading to poor sanitary conditions.

“It smelled terribly,” he said.

Mabrouk also described prisoners being summoned to the administration.

“His feet and hands would be cuffed with metals and he would be pulled over from his feet,” Mabrouk said.

The PA prisoners’ ministry last week accused Israel of failing to honor agreements to ease prisoners conditions.

Since ending the strike, isolation cells continue, prisoners’ visiting periods were not increased, and they are still barred from moving between cells to see fellow prisoners, representatives said.

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