An Israeli NGO has called for the release of a Palestinian hunger striker who they say has been mistreated by Israeli authorities.
Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) condemned the "violent treatment" of Samer Issawi, 33, and his family at Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court on 18 December.
They say that the Israel Prison Service (IPS) guards escorting Issawi violently prevented him from establishing contact with his family members present in the court. This is despite his vulnerability following 123 days of hunger striking.
PHRI report that his life is at risk, that he is almost completely unable to move and uses a wheelchair. The incident was documented by several cameras.
During the incident, Samer Issawi's brother Ashraf Issawi was briefly detained. Two hours later, police forces broke into the family home and arrested Samer’s sister, Shireen Issawi. Both Samer and Shireen are accused of assaulting police.
Shireen was released on probation on 19 December. She was put under house arrest for ten days, has to pay a fine, and is prohibited from being present at any of her brothes'’ court hearings for the next six months.
Nine days before the incident, PHRI had lost an appeal to allow an independent physician access to Samer Issawi and another hunger striker, Ayman Sharawna. Issawi has been in custody without trial since 7 July and has protested against this by hunger striking since 20 August.
As the hunger strike has progressed, the circle of solidarity and protest against his arrest has widened, particularly in East Jerusalem and Al-Issawiya village where he was born. PHRI say that the Jerusalem police have engaged in violent suppression, arresting youths participating in protests.
A statement from PHRI insisted, "It seems that the arrest of Samer’s sister and brothers is an additional means of both exerting pressure on Samer and silencing the protest."
PHRI believe that the refusal to allow an independent doctor to examine hunger strikers is "another tool in a policy of isolation". Since his arrest, Issawi has been denied family visits.