Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Prisoner Without a Name, Among Prisoners Without Number

SAMER ISSAWI in 'critical ondition'
'PRISONER X'?  BEN ZYGIER found hanged in cell.

ISRAELI aircraft have made flights over Gaza and forces been alerted in preparation for hostile action if a Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike in an Israeli prison should die.
Samer Issawi was reported yesterday to be in a critical condition after 195 days on hunger strike.
Fadi Abedat, a lawyer for the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Prisoner Affairs, visited Issawi at Ramle prison clinic.

Issawi has severe leg, kidney, head and chest pains and a slow pulse. He is unable to move or sleep, the ministry said in a statement.The Israeli Prison Service has isolated hunger strikers from each other and guards frequently raid their cells, Issawi told the lawyer.

Palestinian Prisoner Society lawyer Jawad Boulos, who also visited Issawi, said the detainee's weight had dropped to 46 kg and he was struggling to speak.

Issawi is being held under administrative detention, a practice which the Israeli state inherited from the  British Mandate's Emergency Powers and uses to detain Palestinians without bringing any criminal charges against them and without a trial.

Issawi has thanked all who support him in his fight and said he would not quit his strike until Israel met his demands.

The prisoner was released in the October  2011 prisoner exchange agreement between Israel and Hamas, which secured the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from Gaza. But he was rearrested on July 7 and accused of violating the terms of his release by leaving Jerusalem. Israeli prosecutors are seeking to cancel his amnesty and detain him for 20 years, the remainder of his previous sentence. Another prisoner died on January 21, shortly after being released from prison, and Palestinians blamed ill-treatment and denial of medical attention. Speaking after the death in hospital of former prisoner Ashraf Abu Thurai, who had been held for six years and suffered muscular dystrophy making him unable to walk, Dr. Atallah Abu Al-Sabah, Minister for Prisoner Affairs urged the International Red Cross and other bodies to cooperate in an investigation of the treatment of prisoners.

Abu Thurai had contracted a virus which entered his lungs and caused him to enter a coma.

According to several sources, nearly 1,200 out of the 4,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails suffer from various illnesses and are victims of medical negligence. They include 20 prisoners permanently residing in the so-called Al-Ramla Hospital, 18 prisoners suffering from dangerous and malignant diseases such as heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, and 85 disabled prisoners who suffer from mobility, mental, and sensory disabilities.
Palestinian prisoners held by Israel include elected representatives and children, Today their numbers were increased by another 17 detained in the West Bank, among them Raafat Nasif, a prominent Hamas leader released from an Israeli jail just two months ago. Nasif has spent a total of 12 years in Israeli prisons.

Witnesses said that more than 25 military vehicles swept into Tulkarem to arrest Nasif. They used explosives to blow down the door of his home and sent in dogs to search it. Others arrested in Tulkarem were Ammar Badawi, Mosab al-Ashqar, Abdullah al-Khalil and Ammar Omeer. The first three are members of the Islamic Bloc, the student wing of Hamas.

In Nablus the Israeli occupation forces detained Mothana Ishtea, Osama Yamen and Waleed Aseeda, also members of the Islamic Bloc, along with Mosa Yamen. Further south, in the Hebron neighbourhood of Beit-Amer, local sources said that the Israelis broke into Tariq Maria’s house and searched it, damaging personal property in the process, before arresting the 19 year old.
Other men arrested in this latest stage of the campaign against Hamas activists were Mohamed Hijazi, 19, and Monjed abu-Akar, 23, both from Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem; and Rajab Moteer, his brother Mohamed, former prisoner Mo’az Moteer and his cousin Motasem from Kalandia refugee camp north of Jerusalem.

Hamas has accused the Israelis of trying to sabotage the Palestinian reconciliation process by these arrests. A spokesman for the Israeli Army told MEMO, however, that the arrests are "routine" in the "fight against Palestinian terrorists".

While "the only democracy in the Middle East" was carrying on with such "routine" measures in the occupied territories, some international attention turned to another prisoner's death, so mysterious that his identity had not been known even to his guards. "Prisoner X" was found hanged in a high-security cell in a prisoner near Tel Aviv, late in 2010.

There were various rumours, even tales that he was an Iranian general. Officially, the Israeli authorities did not even admit the prisoner existed. As for what he did, or was alleged to have done, to cause his incarceration, this remains a mystery.
Now an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) programme,  Foreign Correspondent, says its investigations have revealed that "Prisoner X" was Ben Zygier, an Australian Jew, who used the name Ben Alon in Israel. His body was flown back to Australia for burial..

Watch the full Foreign Correspondent report on Prisoner X on iview.
The cell where he died, at Ayalon Prison in the city of Ramla, was a special secure unit originally built for Yigal Amir, the assassin of  prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The ABC programme says Zygier became its occupant in early 2010. His incarceration was so secret that it is claimed not even guards knew his identity. Israeli media at the time reported that this Prisoner X received no visitors and lived hermetically sealed from the outside world.

When an Israeli news website reported that the prisoner died in his cell in December 2010, Israeli authorities removed its web pages.

An Israeli court order prohibiting any publication or public discussion of the matter is still in force; Israel's internal security service, Shin Bet, has effectively blocked any coverage of the matter.

Foreign Correspondent says Zygier was 34 at the time of his death and had moved to Israel about 10 years earlier. He was married to an Israeli woman and had two small children.According to the programme he was recruited as an agent for Mossad.

He "disappeared" in early 2010, spending several months in the Prisoner X cell. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel criticised the imprisonment and wrote to Israel's attorney-general.
"It's alarming that there's a prisoner being held incommunicado and we know nothing about him," wrote the association's chief legal counsel Dan Yakir.

The assistant to the attorney-general wrote back: "The current gag order is vital for preventing a serious breach of the state's security, so we cannot elaborate about this affair."

Zygier's apparent suicide in prison adds to the mystery. He was found hanged in a cell with state-of-the-art surveillance systems that are installed to prevent suicide. Guards reportedly tried unsuccessfully to revive him.

His body was retrieved and flown to Melbourne. He was buried in Chevra Kadisha Jewish cemetery in the suburb of Springvale on December 22, seven days after his death. His family has declined to speak to the ABC, and friends and acquaintances approached by Foreign Correspondent in Melbourne have also refused to comment.He was reported to be the son of Geoffrey Zygier, the executive director of the Victoria Jewish Community Council and one of the leaders of the Melbourne Jewish Community.

Despite gagging orders on the Israeli media,Knesset members raised the issue today. Arab Knesset member Ahmed Tibi and Zehava Galon from Meretz both criticised the silence, and demanded the issue be opened, while Dov Kheinin of the Communist-led Hadash wanted to know why the Justice Minister said it was outside his jurisdiction, and wondered how many more "disappeared" prisones were being held in Israel.
SAMER ISSAWI'S sister and father with his portrait.  Ben Zygier's parents would not speak to media.









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