Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
التضامن الإيرلندي الفلسطيني

[Dublin] Vigil in solidarity with hunger strikers Mahmoud Sarsak, Akram Rikhawi and Samer al-Baraq

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) will hold a solidarity vigil with three hunger striking Palestinian prisoners tomorrow evening from 5pm – 6.30pm at the Spire, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1. As one of the hunger striking prisoners, Mahmoud Sarsak, is a member of the Palestinian National Soccer Team, participants will wear Palestinian, international and club football jerseys as a mark of respect as the young footballer nears death.

Mahmoud Sarsak from Gaza’s Rafah refugee camp was detained by the Israeli military on July 22, 2009, when he arrived at the Erez/Gaza checkpoint on his way to the West Bank after getting Israeli permission to join the Palestinian National Team team there. At the checkpoint he was detained, interrogated for 30 days and since then he has been held without charge or trial under Israel’s Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law – a law described by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem as “unconstitutional” and not in “comport with international law”. Despite receiving no charges, 25-year-old Sarsak’s detention order has been renewed six times. After the sixth renewal, Sarsak embarked on an open-ended hunger strike on 19 March and is now on his 81st day of food refusal.

Akram Rikhawi from Gaza was arrested by Israeli occupation forces in 2004 and sentenced to 9 years’ imprisonment by a military court. He has been held in a prison medical centre ever since, as he suffers from various chronic conditions, including diabetes, asthma and osteoporosis. Rikhawi launched his hunger strike on 12 April, demanding that his medical condition be considered during the discussion of his request for an earlier release. Every prisoner is entitled to ask to be considered for early release when at least two thirds of the sentence has been served. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has been trying to gain access to Akram since 6 May, but have been consistently denied. He is now on his 56th day of hunger strike.

Samer al-Baraq, from the village of Jayyous, near Qalqilia, has been on hunger strike since May 22. He has been interned by Israel for almost two years without charge or trail under the Administrative Detention regime. Baraq was assured by that he would will be released after the mass hunger strike of over 2,000 prisoners came to a negotiated end, however his administrative detention order was renewed for another three months in violation of the terms of this agreement, thus forcing Mr. al-Baraq to resume his strike. He is now on his 15th day of hunger strike.

IPSC Chairperson, Martin O’Quigley commented: “Yesterday we contacted the Irish government and various domestic and international footballing bodies to intervene in this case, but we have yet to hear back from any of them. It seems they are unwilling to speak out against this injustice.”

Mr. O’Quigley concluded: Israel’s brutal, repressive and punitive prison regime is only one aspect of the occupation of Palestine by Israel and its associated Apartheid regime. Indeed, when one considers the ongoing siege of Gaza and fragmentation of the West Bank, Palestine can be viewed as one large open air prison camp. The IPSC calls for the end of the Administrative Detention policy and Unlawful Combatants Law, both used to intern people without charge, an end to the system of military courts which do not meet standards of international law, and for the freedom of all Palestinian political prisoners”.

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