Thursday, July 09, 2020

Celebrations as Samer Issawi is Released

By Calum Toogood - December 27, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Samer Issawi ] [prisoners] [Administrative detention]

Photography by Calum Toogood.


The Israeli Prison Service released on Monday Samer Issawi from  Shita prison after his arrest in 2012.  Thousands gathered in the streets of his hometown of Issawiya in East Jerusalem to welcome the 34 year old, who the local community hails as a hero for his 266-day hunger strike while in prison.

At 6pm on the evening of Monday the 23rd, family and friends of Samer Issawi gathered around the television in the Issawi’s family home to see the first interview with Samer after his release.  Singing and dancing broke out in the family home as the news was announced, as well as in the neighbourhood of Issawiya where the community eagerly awaited his return home from the prison.

A large presence of Israeli Border Police lined the entrance to the village, facing a mass of Issawi’s supporters patiently waiting to greet him.

After a short stop in Jericho to visit various officials, including the Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs and the head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, Issawi returned to his hometown of Issawiya late Monday night.

Upon his return, he was carried through the streets of Issawiya, followed by a group of hundreds of his supporters who marched to his home where Issawi was finally reunited with his family.

“My feelings are the same as any Palestinian in this country.  Because all of them, they have been standing with Samer in his struggle and in his stride.  I am very glad with them,”  stated Samer’s father, Tareq Issawi, in a interview with Palestine Monitor.

“I think for all of the Palestinians, Samer has connected them—inside the West Bank, in Gaza, the Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians all over the world.”

Issawi’s notoriety is connected to his 266-day-long hunger strike carried out in protest of Israel’s method of Administrative Detention—a procedure allowing Israeli Authorities to detain individuals without trial using secret evidence for renewable periods of 6-months. Issawi’s 8-month hunger strike garnered huge support from both the local and international community.

Issawi began his hunger strike after he was jailed for a second time.  He was originally released from Israeli prison in 2012 as part of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released during the prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit. However, he was re-arrested in July of last year for allegedly violating the terms of the agreement. His hunger strike was begun in protest to what he described as his “invalid and illegal” detention.  

On 22 April 2013, a deal was reached when the Israeli authorities agreed upon a date for his release as a direct result of Issawi’s own actions.  Issawi consequently ended his hunger strike.  He went on to serve a further eight months in prison before his release in December.

Towards the end of his hunger strike, Issawi was reported to have come very close to death. In April 2013 he weighed as little as 45 kilograms and had a heart rate of 28 beats-per-minute.

Samer was arrested the first time in April 2002 in what the Israelis dubbed “Operation Defensive Shield,” during the height of the Second Intifada.  Issawi was imprisoned under charges of membership within an illegal organisation, attempted murder and possession of explosives.

Issawi is reportedly affiliated with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.  He was given a sentence of 26 years.

In October 2011, Issawi was granted an early release as part of a prisoner swap deal for the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was being held in Gaza at the time.

Under the agreement for Samer’s release, it was stipulated that he was not allowed to enter the West Bank territory outside of Jerusalem.  Less than a year after his release, he was arrested in July 2012 at Jaba checkpoint, North-West of Jerusalem, under charges that he had violated the terms of his conditional release.

Samer was also being charged in court via article 186 of military order 1651, which held him on secret information unavailable to himself or his lawyer.  If charged with this order he would have to serve the remainder of his previous 26-year sentence.

The day prior and on the day of Samer’s release from prison, his family home was raided by Israeli soldiers who spoke with his father and brother.  The Israeli soldiers had threatened the family not to allow any celebrations to take place in the village upon Samer’s return. 


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