1st Palestinian journalist on hunger strike ‘about to die’ in jail

A Palestinian journalist who went on hunger strike 50 days ago over his six-month detention without trial in an Israeli prison is in critical condition, his family says.

Muhammed al-Qeq, who was arrested by Israel's internal security agency Shin Bet in November, is the first journalist to protest extrajudicial detention by refusing food.

His father revealed shocking details of al-Qeq’s health, saying “he is about to die now, and he vomits and urinates blood.” The only way to save al-Qeq’s life, his father said, is to set him free. “For those who have consciences, and [also] human rights organizations in the west and east, please try to save the life of my son and grandsons,” he appealed.

Al-Qeq, 33, was arrested on November 21 by Israel’s Shin Bet security service, which accused him of links to Hamas. Seven weeks ago he launched a hunger strike in protest at being detained without charges or due legal process, refusing food and drinking only water.

Al-Qeq’s wife, Faiha’a Shalash, has told RT the Israelis arrested him in his house in Ramallah, citing as justification alleged media incitement to violence. She said al-Qeq was made to suffer inhuman and degrading treatment while in an Israeli detention center.

“We knew that he was subject to all kinds of threat and torture methods, like being beaten on a small chair when he was handcuffed and blindfolded for long hours,” his wife said.

“They insulted and shouted at him in a humiliating manner and he was but in a very small prison that is not suitable to a human being. He also was threatened with sexual assault […] and internment for seven years if he doesn’t admit his accusation of incitement to violence.”

Shalash, who is a journalist herself, said the accusation of incitement to violence does not fit with reality and “depends on news reports made by Muhammed as a journalist and as it was his work.” She is confident al-Qeq was detained because he described the Israelis as an occupying force committing crimes against humanity in the West Bank.

Al-Qeq’s brother, Hamam, added: “It is about showing the reality in Palestine objectively, Israel doesn’t want a Palestinian journalist to show the reality to the international community objectively.”

Ashraf Abu Sneneh, al-Qeq's lawyer, who visited him in jail, has told RT he lost over 20 kilograms after 50 days on hunger strike, and described his health condition as critical.

“He lost consciousness while walking to the toilet. On Saturday morning, the prison guards forced him to give a blood sample despite his physical exhaustion,” the lawyer said, adding he suspects the Israeli authorities are going to use force-feeding – widely recognized as torture.

“I think if the Israeli occupiers feed Muhammad according to the law that came into effect two months ago, he will die. My experience since the 1970s has shown that force-feeding can have a lethal outcome,” al-Qeq’s lawyer warned. A contentious Israeli law passed last year allows for the force-feeding of a hunger striker if his life is in danger, even if the prisoner refuses.

The Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) called on the international community to press on the Israeli authorities to free al-Qeq. “MADA urges all international human rights and freedom of expression organizations to put pressure on the Israeli occupation government to release [al-Qeq] to save his life, which is under imminent threat due to his hunger strike,” it said in a statement.