Ex-hunger striker returns to Gaza Strip

2013-02-07 22:15
A man holds up a pot covered in pictures of Palestinian prisoners Mahmoud al-Sarsak, left, and Akram al-Rikhawi, right, during a protest in May 2012. (Abbas Momani, AFP)

A man holds up a pot covered in pictures of Palestinian prisoners Mahmoud al-Sarsak, left, and Akram al-Rikhawi, right, during a protest in May 2012. (Abbas Momani, AFP)

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Gaza City - A Palestinian prisoner who last year staged a hunger strike of more than 100 days was freed from an Israeli prison on Thursday and returned to his home in the Gaza Strip.

Akram al-Rikhawi was shown on Palestinian television being welcomed by a large crowd of well-wishers as he crossed into Gaza after close to nine years in jail.

Israel convicted Rikhawi in 2004 for membership of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip.

He was due to be freed in June this year, but the West Bank-based Palestinian Prisoners' Club said in July that the Israel Prisons Service agreed to bring forward his release in exchange for his ending the hunger strike.

Amnesty International on Thursday warned that two Palestinians imprisoned without charge since November were suffering deteriorating health after being on hunger strike since shortly after their arrest.

The London-based rights group said that Jaafar Ezzedine and Tareq Qaadan were visited by their lawyer last week in the medical wing of Ramle prison, in central Israel.

"Jaafar and Tariq are taking only water," an Amnesty statement quoted the unnamed lawyer as saying.

"Last week both were taken to a hospital for eight hours and underwent medical checks. I was with them in the hospital and spoke to the doctors who told me their health is in a very critical state."

He added that both men accepted injections of vitamins and other supplements.

Palestinian prisoner support group Adameer says six prisoners held by Israel are currently on hunger strike.

The longest serving are Ayman Sharawneh and Samer Assawi who have been fasting for months to demand their release from imprisonment without trial, although the exact length of time is unclear.

Amnesty demanded that Israel either charge or release immediately those interned and end the practise of "administrative detention", under which suspects can be imprisoned without trial by order of a military court.

The order can be renewed indefinitely for six months at a time.

Read more on:    gaza strip  |  israel
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