By Karin Friedemann, TMO
File: Samer Issawi
World famous hunger striking political prisoner from Jerusalem, Samer Issaw, 34, was released from Shita Prison on December 23, 2013, the day after Israeli troops raided his home and detained his father Tariq and brother Midhat Issawi.
On December 22, Israeli forces gave Samerâ€™s father and brother â€œnotificationsâ€ ordering them to report to Israeli intelligence for interrogations. Samerâ€™s father was threatened and warned about causing â€œproblems.â€ He was prohibited from organizing celebrations for Samerâ€™s release. The men were then let go. They were reportedly present at the big party!
Samerâ€™s sister, Shireen posted a Facebook comment, saying: â€œI swear to God we will rejoice in the freedom of the hero Samer Issawi.â€
In response to the Israeli threats, she said: â€œWe have the right. The world will stay with us, and we will rejoice.â€
â€œSamer Issawiâ€™s family was ordered by Israeli terror police earlier today not to celebrate and to take down the flags raised at their home,â€ stated the Free Samer Issawi Campaign.
2,000 supporters celebrated joyously upon his release. However, the ongoing electricity crisis in Gaza meant that many supporters couldnâ€™t follow live coverage of his homecoming.
Issawiâ€™s mother, Laila Issawi, said Samer is still very weak and that his condition requires constant vigilant treatment. Due to his 8 month hunger strike, he lost half his body weight. â€œIf I die, it is a victory,â€ he had said. â€œIf we are liberated, it is a victory.â€ He is still unable to eat solid foods.
Issawi was one of the 1,027 prisoners released from Israeli prison in the deal for the freedom of Gilad Shalit. He was originally convicted in 2002 of being a Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine activist.
In October 2011, Issawi, then serving the ninth year of a 30-year jail sentence for involvement in resistance activities against Israel, was released as part of an Egypt-brokered prisoner swap between Hamas and Israeli authorities, reports Al-Ahram news agency. Issawi was rearrested July 2012 under Israelâ€™s so-called administrative detention law, for trying to catch a bus in Kufr Aqab, a village within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem near a Jewish settlement, in what Israeli officials said was a parole violation. His lawyer Andre Rosenthal stated that he had been taking his car to be fixed at a garage in the West Bank.
According to Addameer, as a result of this arrest, Issawi again faced twenty yearsâ€™ imprisonment by an Israeli military court – on the grounds of secret information not accessible to him or his lawyer.
Demonstrations in support of Issawiâ€™s hunger strike were held throughout Palestine. A protest tent in Issaiyeh, Issawiâ€™s village, was destroyed by Israeli forces more than 20 times, Maath Musleh reported for The Electronic Intifada.On January 7, 2013, a protest organized by the Palestinian activist Hala Numan, took place in Washington, DC in support of Issawi.
As a result of his hunger strike as the resulting publicity, Israel offered to deport him in April 2013 but he refused to be released anywhere but his home in Jerusalem. Lawyer Jawad Boulos said that while â€œIsrael had tried to make him agree to being deportedâ€ to any of a number of countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Finland and Switzerland, Issawi had â€œstrongly refused in principle to be deported to any state.â€
In January 2013, Israel demolished the house of Samerâ€™s eldest brother, Raâ€™fat in retaliation. On February 30, 2013 masked Israeli soldiers ordered his father to take all family members outside while they ransacked the house.
Samerâ€™s sister Shireen is an attorney that has worked very hard for his release. Israeli activists and intellectuals intervened to help free him. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on February 13, 2013 regarding the condition of Issawi and 3 other prisoners of Israel engaged in a hunger strike to protest the fact they were being held in prison without being convicted.
After a hunger striking 266 days, coming very close to death, Issawi reached an agreement with Israeli authorities in April, agreeing to end the hunger strike and serve a further eight months, totaling a sentence of 17 months. He had been kept alive through intravenous fluids. Since then, he still has refused solid food and is therefore very weak.
â€œI wanted to protect the rights of Palestinian prisoners and deter Israel from re-arresting more Palestinians who had been freed in the Shalit deal,â€ Issawi told Palestinian reporters according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, retired Israeli judge in Ofer Military Court Adrian Agassi has called on Israeli government to kill Palestinian prisoners instead of releasing them, Tadamun Foundation for Human Rights said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called for the rearrest of Samer al-Issawi, two days after Issawi was released to his East Jerusalem home, claiming that Issawi was guilty of inciting violence:
â€œJust yesterday, on the day of his release, Issawi called in an interview with Hamas television to continue to kidnap IDF soldiers and said that â€˜the release of prisoners will be reached only by kidnappings and prisoner swaps and nothing will be achieved without that,â€™â€ Liberman claimed in a statement posted to his Facebook page.
Stephen Lendmann reports: â€œHis grandfather was a founding PLO member. British Mandate authorities sentenced him to death. In 1994, Israeli forces murdered his brother, Fadi. He was aged 16 at the time. It was during a peaceful demonstration. His brother Medhat served 19 years in prison. His other brothers Firas, Raâ€™afat and Shadi were imprisoned for 5 to 11 years. Issawiâ€™s brother, Shadi, was arrested on February 16 in an Israeli house raid.â€
Midhat had just been released from prison on December 10 of this year, his sister Shirin said.
Sister Shirin â€œwas detained for the duration of 2010,â€ according to Addameer. Shirin was again arrested in December 2012 and banned from attending Samerâ€™s hearings for six months, reported Al-Haq, a Palestinian non-governmental organization for human rights.
The â€œFree Samer Issawi Campaignâ€ Facebook page, which garnered over 10,000 likes, posted: â€œSamer is a hero to us, to the entire Palestinian population inside of Palestine and in the diaspora, and to millions of supporters around the world.â€
Israeli forces stormed several West Bank neighborhoods in the Bethlehem, Nablus and Ramallah districts last week, breaking into homes and kidnapping young men.
Two brothers Muhammad Salih Bader, 25, and Islam Salih Bader, 20, held without charge, ended their 38-day hunger strike after Ofer prison authorities decided to transfer them to court for trial.