Israel releases ex-prisoner weeks after ending hunger strike

Palestinian Kayed Fasfous had remained in an Israeli hospital since ending his 131-day hunger strike on November 23.

Former Palestinian prisoner Khaled Fasfous makes a victory sign in an ambulance following his release in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah [Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo]

Israeli authorities have freed a prominent Palestinian prisoner, two weeks after reaching a release deal that ended his marathon 131-day hunger strike, a prisoner rights group has said.

Kayed Fasfous, 32, had remained in an Israeli hospital since ending his strike on November 23.

He was the symbolic figurehead of six hunger strikers protesting Israel’s controversial policy of “administrative detention”, which allows suspects to be held indefinitely without charge.

Israel has said the policy is necessary to keep dangerous suspects locked away without disclosing sensitive information that could expose valuable sources.

Palestinians and rights groups said the practice denies the right of due process, allowing Israel to hold prisoners for months or even years without seeing the evidence against them. The law is rarely applied to Israelis.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a group representing former and current prisoners, confirmed Fasfous had returned home to the occupied West Bank through a military checkpoint near the southern city of Hebron on Sunday afternoon.

Later, online footage showed the former prisoner in a wheelchair celebrating his return to his southern hometown of Dura.

Fasfous served five years in Israeli prisons without charge or trial, and lost about 45kg (99 pounds) of weight during his hunger strike, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.

The plight of the six hunger strikers ignited solidarity demonstrations across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza in November mounting pressure on Israel to release the detainees.

At least four of the five other hunger strikers have since ended their protests after reaching similar deals with Israeli authorities. They are expected to be released in the coming months.

Hunger strikes have been common among Palestinian prisoners and have helped secure numerous concessions from Israeli authorities.

The nature of these strikes have varied from individuals protesting detention without charge to groups calling for improved cell conditions. Around 500 of the 4,600 Palestinians detained by Israel are held in administrative detention according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner rights group.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies