Palestinian seeks freedom in 3rd month of hunger strike




RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A Palestinian detainee who has been on a hunger strike for two months to press for his release is determined to continue despite deteriorating health, his family and an advocacy group said.

Bilal Kayed, 34, began the fast June 14, after Israel ordered him held for six months without charges, immediately following completion of a 14-and-a-half-year prison term, his relatives said.

The family has mixed feelings, wanting him to go free but fearing for his health.

"We can only support him" in his strike, his 41-year-old sister, Soha Hussein, said Saturday at the family home in the village of Assira al-Shamaliya. "So we say, 'go on, but stay alive and come home.'"

Israel's Prison Service said Sunday that Kayed is being monitored by medical staff and has undergone hospital checkups.

The advocacy group Addameer said representatives visited Kayed last week at Barzilai Hospital in the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Kayed is shackled to his bed and suffers from severe pain, blurred vision, numbness, hair loss and yellowness and peeling of the skin, the group said.

Despite his deteriorating health, Kayed is in high spirits and "has vowed to continue his hunger strike until he is freed," the group said.

Kayed was arrested in 2001, at the height of an armed Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Kayed, a Palestinian policeman at the time, was convicted of shooting at Israeli troops.

A protest tent outside the family home in the West Bank was decorated with posters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small PLO faction which has carried out attacks on Israelis.

Hussein said her brother had hoped to get engaged after his anticipated June release. She said he had spent his prison term learning English, French and Hebrew, and had taught fellow inmates.

Hana Herbst, a Prison Service spokeswoman, said 93 Palestinian prisoners have begun a hunger strike to show solidarity with Kayed.

At the end of April, Israel was holding close to 6,300 Palestinians in security-related cases, including some 700 in administrative detention, without trial or charges.

The Israeli rights group B'Tselem says Israel is violating international humanitarian law with its large-scale application of what is meant to be, at most, an emergency measure used sparingly.
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