Lawyer of Palestinian hunger striker files appeal

AP News
Posted: Feb 18, 2012 9:27 AM
Lawyer of Palestinian hunger striker files appeal

A Palestinian waging a hunger strike for an unprecedented 63 days has appealed to Israel's Supreme Court, demanding to be released from months-long detention without trial, his lawyer said Saturday.

Khader Adnan is fighting a provision that allows Israel to hold detainees for months or even years without trial or formal charges. Israeli officials say they use so-called "administrative detention" to guard against immediate threats to the country's security.

Adnan, a member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, has continued his hunger strike longer than any Palestinian detainee before him. His doctors warned this week that the 33-year-old might die soon.

"We are hoping ... the Supreme Court hears this case urgently," said Mahmoud Hassan, one of Adnan's lawyers. "He could die before the court hearing happens."

The court has not set a date for the hearing. Hassan said in previous cases, the high court at times reduced the sentence of administrative detainees on appeal, but rarely ordered them freed outright.

The hunger strike has transformed Adnan into a Palestinian hero, with thousands protesting in support of the once obscure bearded baker. The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad has vowed revenge if Adnan dies, possibly by firing rockets into Israel from Gaza. The group has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks. Adnan was once a spokesman for the group. It's unclear if he ever participated in any attacks.

Adnan is under guard in an Israeli hospital, where officials are monitoring his condition.

He is taking liquid infusions of salts, glucose and minerals, said the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights on Wednesday, citing his doctor. The group is overseeing his medical care.

Adnan is still lucid, but he has shed some 66 pounds (30 kilograms), his hair is falling out, his muscles have atrophied and he is in immediate danger of death, said the group's doctor.

Adnan is serving four months in administrative detention. Israeli military judges can imprison defendants for up to six months at a time, with the possibility of renewing the detention order repeatedly. Defendants and their lawyers are not shown the alleged evidence against them.

An Israeli military judge rejected an appeal by Adnan last week, saying he reviewed the evidence and found the sentence to be fair.

On Saturday, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the bloc was following Adnan's case with "great concern."

"Detainees have the right to be informed about the charges underlying any detention and be subject to a fair trial," Ashton said in a statement.

Israeli military officials generally use administrative detention to hold Palestinians who they believe are an imminent risk to the country's security. They say if the evidence against the accused was made public, it would expose Israeli intelligence-gathering networks in the Palestinian Territories. They say the process is under full judicial review by Israel's military and the Supreme Court.

Annan began his hunger strike on Dec. 18, a day after he was seized from his home in the northern West Bank town of Arabeh.

He told his lawyers that he was beaten and humiliated during arrest and interrogation.

Also Saturday, Palestinian militants fired three rockets from Gaza into Israel, officials said.

Israeli police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby said the rockets landed in an open area, causing no damage.

A years-old understanding between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers have halted much of the rocket fire from the tiny territory.