Middle East

Israel Supreme Court rejects hunger strikers' appeal

Protesters call for the release of Thaer Halahla (left) and Bilal Diab (right) in Jerusalem (3 May 2012)
Image caption Thaer Halahla (left) and Bilal Diab (right) have been refusing food since 28 February

Israel's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal against their imprisonment by two Palestinians who have been on hunger strike for 70 days.

Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla have been placed in "administrative detention", a controversial practice whereby people can be held without charge or trial.

Both men are suspected of security offences by the Israeli authorities.

After their appeals were rejected, their lawyer said they intended to "continue their strike to the end".

"Israeli courts do not handle administrative detention in a positive way. It shows that the intelligence services have the final word," Jamil Khatib told the AFP news agency.

In his decision, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein expressed concern over their deteriorating condition, and referred the military authorities to a legal clause which could allow their release on medical grounds, AFP reported.

The clause relates to those "whose illness is limiting his days, or for whom remaining in prison would seriously endanger his life due to his illness".

Judge Rubinstein said that although the practice of administrative detention caused him "great discontent", it was "necessary when the material regarding the petitioner is intelligence material, the exposure of which would harm its conveyor or the methods in which it was obtained".

Such detainees' cases could be examined by "a jurist acceptable to the detainees, who would receive the sufficient security approval... [and] who could examine the material on their behalf", he added.

'Death sentence'

The Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) condemned the Supreme Court's decision as "a death sentence" for both men.

"Their lives are in danger and their families are still banned from seeing them," PHR spokeswoman Amani Daif told AFP. "They could die any moment now."

Ms Daif on Friday told the BBC that both men had stopped co-operating with prison doctors and were refusing intravenous drips, vitamins or salts.

She said that Mr Diab, 27, was in danger of cardiac arrest and that there were signs Mr Halahla, 34, could have a lung infection.

The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) said it was trying to get Mr Diab and Mr Halahla to eat, and that they were receiving proper medical care but that in the end it was their choice.

Mr Diab has been held under administrative detention since August 2011, while Mr Halahla has been detained since June 2010.

Image caption Palestinians have been holding protests in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike

When the two men appeared before Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem on Thursday to appeal for their release they were both in wheelchairs.

Mr Diab is reported to have collapsed and was rushed to hospital.

Mass hunger strike

More than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners have joined the two men's hunger strike since the middle of April, refusing food over the policy of detention without charge and seeking to improve their general prison conditions.

Many say they are kept in solitary confinement and refused family visits.

Israel says that many of 4,500 Palestinian prisoners in its jails are suspected of being members of militant Palestinian groups.

Administrative detention has been condemned by the Palestinian Authority, which says it will take the matter to the United Nations.

There have also been daily protests by the prisoners' supporters outside the jails where they are being held.

In April, Israel released Khader Adnan, reportedly a member of the militant group Islamic Jihad, after he agreed to end his 66-day hunger strike in return for a his administrative detention not being renewed.

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