Israel released on Thursday, November 26, the Palestinian political prisoner Maher al-Akhras, who waged a 103-day hunger strike to protest his administrative detention since July 27. Al-Akhras was arrested and held without charge or being brought before a judge because of his alleged membership in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. On Thursday he was transferred from his guarded hospital room in Rehovot to Nablus’s Al-Najah University Hospital in the West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said in a statement. Dr. Abdul-Karim Al-Barqawi, medical director of Al-Najah Hospital, told reporters that al-Akhras would be allowed to return home pending “a medical assessment of his condition.”
Al-Akhras, 49, was arrested by Israel forces near Nablus on July 27, and was placed in administrative detention, an imprisonment policy that the occupation uses to hold suspected terrorists in cases where it maintains that revealing the evidence against the prisoner in court would harm national security. Born in 1971 in the village of Salileh, near the city of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank, al-Akhras, the father of six, has been imprisoned by Israeli authorities at least five times since he was 18 for a total of at least five years. He was detained for seven months in 1989; for another two years beginning in 2004; for 16 months starting in 2009; for 11 months in 2018; and most recently for four months since the end of July. Al-Akhras declared an open-ended hunger strike with his most recent detention, and ended his 103-day fast on Friday, November 6, after Israeli authorities committed not to extend his detention beyond November 26.
Al-Akhras’s case drew considerable attention from both Palestinians and the international community. The United Nations and the European Union — both of which have long opposed Israel’s use of administrative detention — had expressed concern over al-Akhras’s deteriorating health and called for Israel to either release him immediately or charge him in a court of law.
Israel’s administrative detention policy, inherited from the British colonial occupation of Palestine (1917-1948), allows the internment of prisoners without charge for renewable periods of up to six months each time. Approximately 355 Palestinians were being held by Israel under administrative detention orders as of August, including two minors, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.