Palestinian hunger strikers urge Pope to speak out against Israel
The appeal was delivered in a letter by Fadwa Barghouti, the wife of imprisoned hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti, at a meeting with the heads of the Catholic Church in Ramallah.
The Vatican has recognized Palestine as a state.
The letter urged Pope Francis to speak out on the issue of hunger strike to help save the lives of sons, husbands and fathers, to speak for the women and the children in Israeli prisons, to speak about this holy land that has been desecrated by occupation, discrimination, segregation and apartheid, while it needs to be a land of pluralism.
I hope this message reaches you and you can intervene before it is too late, Barghouti wrote.
Since April 17, more than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners have joined the protest action, dubbed the Freedom and Dignity Strike, which was initially called by Barghouti, a former Fatah movement leader.
The strikers are demanding basic rights such as an end to the policies of administrative detention, solitary confinement and deliberate medical negligence.
The much criticized administrative detention is a policy under which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention facilities without trial or charge.
The letter said there are currently 6,500 Palestinians in prison in Israel, including 300 children and 57 women, 13 lawmakers and 500 administrative detainees.
The Israeli courts are a tool for oppression and not for justice, especially the Israeli military courts, where the rate of conviction is between 90 and 99 percent, Barghouti wrote.
The letter further said the hunger strike has been launched over a lack of the most basic rights in Israeli detention facilities, adding that the prisoners want an end to arbitrary and punitive actions, to torture and abuse, to intentional medical neglect.
They are risking their lives to achieve what they are entitled to. They are hunger striking because they are the victims of collective punishment by Israel and have been abandoned by the world, Barghouti noted.
On Wednesday, lawyer Khader Shkirat said the Israel Prison Service abruptly canceled his scheduled prison visit with Barghouti and expressed concern for his client, who has been held in solitary confinement since April 17.
Prison service spokesman Assaf Librati has provided no explanation for the cancellation.
Meanwhile, the National Committee to Support Palestinian Prisoners' Hunger Strike called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to suspend municipal elections scheduled to be held Saturday and halt its contested security coordination with Israel, Ma'an news agency reported.
Back in 2012, a similar hunger strike, involving some 2,000 Palestinian inmates, ended after an agreement was reached with Israeli authorities to terminate the policy of internment without trial or charge.
The Palestinian inmates regularly hold hunger strikes in protest against the administrative detention policy and their harsh prison conditions.
Nearly 700 prisoners are currently held in administrative detention. Some of the inmates have been held in prison under the policy for up to 11 years.
Source: Al Alam