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Released: Samer Issawi Photo: AP
Released: Samer Issawi Photo: AP
 
 

Palestinian hunger striker released from Israeli prison

Prisoner who caused wave of Palestinian protests after hunger striking for eight months was released Monday. 'I wanted to protect the rights of Palestinian prisoners and deter Israel from re-arresting more Palestinians,' Issawi said

Elior Levy
Published: 12.23.13, 21:43 / Israel News

Palestinian administrative detainee Samer Issawi was released Monday and allowed to return to his Issawiya home in east Jerusalem.

 

Issawi was first released from Israeli prison as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal, but was arrested for breaching the conditions of his parole. While in prison he began a prolonged hunger strike in protest of Israel's use of administrative detentions. His hunger strike caused street riots in his name.

 

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Local sources told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an that Issawi was set free from Shatta prison in northern Israel, and he is expected to arrive in his village of Issawiya by 8 pm, where hundreds are waiting to welcome him.  His release comes after IDF forces raided his family home in recent days.

 

"I wanted to protect the rights of Palestinian prisoners and deter Israel from re-arresting more Palestinians who had been freed in the Shalit deal," Issawi told Palestinian reporters who waited for him outside the Shata prison.

 

Released: Samer Issawi  (Photo: AP)
Released: Samer Issawi (Photo: AP)

 

Issawi, 33, was embraced by family as he left the prison. He was given a medical exam in an ambulance parked outside the prison and then drove off.

 

He was driven from the prison to a brief welcoming ceremony near Jericho in the West Bank, and from there to his home.

 

Issawi had taken only water and infusions for eight months, ending his hunger strike in April. He was among several Palestinian prisoners staging long-term hunger strikes.

 

Issawi had initially been sentenced to 26 years in prison for involvement in a series of shooting attacks, but won early release in a prisoner swap in 2011. He was re-arrested for violating the terms of his release, and had faced the prospect of serving the full sentence.

 

 Issawi. Eight months of hunger strike (Photo: AP)
Issawi. Eight months of hunger strike (Photo: AP)

 

After hunger striking for 266 days, Issawi agreed to a deal brokered by Israeli and Palestinian officials to serve eight months for allegedly violating bail conditions and end his hunger strike in return for an earlier release.

 

Issawi's lawyer and sister conveyed the offer to his bedside in Israel's Kaplan hospital, where he had been under Israeli guard and receiving intravenous vitamins but refusing food.

 

Israel convicted Issawi of opening fire on an Israeli bus in 2002, but released him in 2011 along with more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange with Hamas for Gilad Shalit.

 

He was re-arrested last July after Israel said he violated the terms of his release by crossing from east Jerusalem to the West Bank, and ordered him to stay in jail until 2029 – his original sentence.

 

Israel holds some 5,000 Palestinians accused of committing or planning violence against the State. Israel has agreed to release 104 under US-brokered understandings that paved the way for the revival of peace talks.

 

Half that number has already been freed, another 26 inmates are set to go free before the end of the year, and a final group of 26 will be released at a later date.

 

Reuters, AFP and the Associated Press contributed to this report

 

 

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