The continuing ordeal of Ahmad Zahran

An Israeli court refused to release Palestinian administrative detainee Ahmad Zahran who has been on hunger strike for 109 days. The court said that an investigation into his release could not be conducted until he withdrew his protest

January 10, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
A poster demanding the release of Ahmad Zahran.

On Tuesday, January 7, an Israeli military court in Ofer prison rejected the appeal of Palestinian administrative detainee Ahmad Zahran, who has been on hunger strike for the last 109 days. Zahran has been protesting his illegal detention by Israeli authorities without charge or trial. The appeal submitted by his lawyer had requested for an end to his administrative detention and sought his release on medical grounds. Zahran’s lawyer has now said that they will appeal against the military court’s decision in the Israeli supreme court.

Protests are being held across Palestine demanding his release.

The 42-year-old Palestinian was arrested in February 2019 and slapped with an administrative detention order, which was renewed once again after eight months in October. The renewal came despite assurances to the contrary by the Israeli prison authorities following Zahran’s earlier hunger strike which had lasted for 39 days. Zahran had ended his first strike only after being assured that his detention would not be renewed.

According to the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) commission of prisoners’ affairs, the Ofer court demanded that Zahran end his current hunger strike before his appeal to end his administrative detention was heard. The court claimed that this was necessary for the conduct of an investigation by the Israeli authorities, which is only possible once there is a substantial improvement in the detainee’s health. The court added that Zahran’s current health condition does not permit an investigation into his case.

Israeli investigators from the Maskubiya detention and interrogation center had attempted to interrogate Zahran while he was admitted to the al-Ramleh hospital about two weeks ago. However, his health condition had drastically declined after being on hunger strike for 90 consecutive days. On Monday,  Zahran was once again transferred to the Kaplan medical center following further deterioration in his health.

A resident of the Deir Mash’al village in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Zahran, a father of four, has spent a total of 15 years in various Israeli prisons for acts of resistance against Israel’s occupation. His recent hunger strike against his illegal administrative detention has taken a significant toll on his health.  He has lost 35 kg and is suffering from various chronic conditions and health problems, including a slow heart rate, hyponatremia (low blood sodium or salt deficiency), bouts of severe headache, extreme fatigue and joint pains. He has also been confined to a wheelchair since the 45th day of his hunger strike.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society and the Palestinian Prisoners Study Centre, in a statement, have said that the Israeli intelligence agencies are working in tandem to block a deal between Ahmad Zahran and the prison authorities, wherein the Palestinian would be released from administrative detention if he ended his hunger strike.

Meanwhile, protests were held in various Israeli prisons by Palestinian prisoners to express solidarity with Zahran. In the city of Rafah in the besieged Gaza strip, Palestinians staged a demonstration march on Tuesday, demanding Zahran’s release. Protests also took place across Palestine on Wednesday. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) spokesman Ahmad Barakat has called upon international humanitarian organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, to intervene on behalf of Zahran, and demanded that Israel end its brutal and illegal policy of administration detention.

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