Palestinian prisoner dies in solitary confinement in Israeli jail

Nassar Taqatqa, 31, has been found dead in his cell in Israel’s Nitzan prison weeks after his arrest.

Men playing the role of [Palestinian prisoners
Men pretending they are prisoners are seen in a mock jail during a Gaza City rally marking Palestinian Prisoners' Day which calls for the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails [File: Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

A Palestinian prisoner held in solitary confinement in an Israeli prison has died barely a month after his arrest, his family has said.

Nassar Taqatqa, 31, was arrested on June 19 after Israeli forces raided his family home in the village of Beit Fajjar south of the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem.

He was initially taken to the notorious Jalameh interrogation centre, where detainees have previously reported being subjected to physical and psychological abuse at the hands of Israeli officers. Two weeks later, he was transferred to the Nitzan prison in al-Ramleh and placed in solitary confinement, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies.

“We were shocked to learn of his death this morning,” his cousin Mohammed Taqatqa told Al Jazeera on Tuesday, adding that the family was waiting to find out more information.

“We still haven’t received his body but an autopsy will be conducted to find out the cause of death.”

‘No health problems’

In a statement on Tuesday, the Palestinian foreign ministry called for an international inquiry into the death.

The Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies said in a statement it was holding Israel responsible for the death, alleging it was a result of torture and medical negligence as he was not suffering from any diseases prior to his arrest. 

Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Committee, told local media outlets that Israeli forces claimed that Taqatqa had died as a result of a stroke. 

“We will not accept the Israeli version of Taqatqa’s death,” Abu Bakr said. “We demand an autopsy to be carried out as soon as possible to determine exactly the cause of his death.”

There was no immediate comment by Israeli officials. The Israeli prison service did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment at the time of publication.

Taqatqa’s family confirmed to local media that Nassar did not have any health problems and that this was the first time he had been arrested.

Described by his cousin Mohammed as a “simple, honest man,” Taqatqa was one of six brothers and worked in a stone quarry.  

Taqatqa was still undergoing interrogation and had not been charged with anything. His court date for an extension of his detention was due on Wednesday.

Translation: The martyr Nassar Majed Taqatqa who died in Israeli prison this morning

Amina al-Taweel, a researcher at the Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies, called Taqatqa’s death a “cold-blooded execution”.

Al-Taweel described the Nitzan detention centre as “one of the worst prisons” in Israel.

“It is known for its horrific conditions and cruel guards,” she told Al Jazeera. “During Taqatqa’s detention, he was not allowed access to his lawyer, family visits or any communication with others.”

Tense situation

Following Taqatqa’s death, Hassan Abedrabbo, spokesman for the Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Committee, told local media that Israeli forces shut down all jails holding Palestinian prisoners, and have prevented their lawyers from visiting, as well as cancelling court sessions and the transfers of prisoners for the day.

Abedrabbo added that Israeli prisons were in a state of “tension and alertness” as Palestinian prisoners were planning to protest against Taqatqa’s death.

According to a statement posted on its Facebook page, the Palestinian Prisoner Society said prisoners were prepared for any confrontation with the Israeli prison administration.

“As soon as they heard the news of Taqatqa’s death, the prisoners have been banging on their cell doors, and have informed the prison administrations that they would not receive their meals,” the society said.

The Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies said Taqatqa’s death meant that the number of Palestinian prisoners who have died in Israeli prisons since 1967 has risen to 220.

According to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights group, there are currently 5,250 prisoners in Israeli jails, including 205 children and 44 women.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics says there have been approximately one million arrests made against Palestinians since 1948. 

Source: Al Jazeera