Amir Cohen / Reuters

Israel suspends detention of high-profile Palestinian hunger striker

Mohammed Allaan, who has refused food for more than 65 days, will be freed because of deteriorating medical condition

Israel's Supreme Court has ordered the release of Mohammed Allaan, a high-profile Palestinian political prisoner whose 65-day hunger strike has drawn international attention to his detention without trial.

An attorney defending Allaan told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that the decision to suspend his detention was made after the court studied the detainee’s medical report. Lawyer Sawsan Zaher said that having accepted that Allaan had sustained brain damage “the court accepted our petition and froze the administrative detention order as long as his health obliges it.” The development came as Allaan was placed back into a coma, just a day after medics had taken him off sedation.

"We regret that this decision happened only now when we submitted our petition on Sunday,” Zaher said, adding that the delay allowed Allaan's condition to continue to spiral downward.

Allaan's rapidly deteriorating health and the issue of whether to force-feed the detainee had caused a split between Israeli politicians, who recently enacted a law demanding that he be kept alive through enteral feeding, and a medical community that has been refusing to comply on the grounds that to do so would be unethical.

The 30-year-old prisoner was arrested in November 2014 and is accused of having ties with the armed group Islamic Jihad — an affiliation that Allaan has denied. He has since been held in administrative detention — a controversial form of imprisonment that allows Israeli authorities to detain individuals indefinitely without charge, trial or access to counsel if they are deemed a security threat.

For the last 65 days Allaan has refused food, vitamins, supplements and even medical treatment in protest of his detainment.

A Palestinian young boy hugs Naser al-Deen Allaan (L), the father of the Mohammed Allaan, following news of the suspension of his son's detention, at the family home in the West Bank city of Nablus on August 19, 2015.
Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, he was brought out of a medically induced coma that he had been placed in on Friday due to his deteriorating condition. After coming around, the detainee vowed to continue his fast.

Earlier on Wednesday, Allaan's lawyer said that the state had proposed a compromise under which Allaan would be released in November, if he agreed to end his hunger strike.

Attorney Kamel Natour said the defense team had asked the court to release Allaan immediately because his health was deteriorating again and that their client was unable to respond to the proposal.

Chezy Levy, the medical director of Barzilai Medical Center where Allaan has been held for the past week, said Wednesday that an MRI has shown damage to one of the sections of his brain. The damage is likely "caused by a deficiency in a certain vitamin," Levy said in a statement. 

"Throughout the day Allaan began to lose coherent connection with his environment, did not speak clearly and stared off in various directions," he said.

Despite a suspension in his detention, Allaan's freedom may not be guaranteed.  

"If Allaan's health does not improve, then his administrative detention will be canceled permanently," Supreme Court spokesperson Ayelet Filo said.   

However, if his condition does improve, it is unclear if the state will allow him to go home or resume under detention. 

The court "left this question open," Zaher said. 

Allaan will remain at Barzilai Medical Center for treatment, but without the shackles mandated under his detention order. His family will be able to visit him under guidelines of the hospital's regulations and within visiting hours. 

"If Allaan's medical condition improves, and he asks to be transferred to a different hospital, he will have to submit a request to the authorities in order to do so," Filo said.

Allaan’s plight has sparked protests in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Confrontations erupted last week outside Barzilai between Palestinians and Israelis. Dozens of Palestinian activists in East Jerusalem have also launched a sit-in at the International Committee of the Red Cross, calling for Allaan’s release, among other demands. Islamic Jihad has threatened attacks against Israel if he dies in detention.

The hunger strike has also drawn international attention to Israel’s policy of administrative detention.

Israel defends the practice as a necessary tool to stop attacks from Palestinian fighters and argues that revealing the charges would lay bare intelligence networks and put people's lives in danger. But rights groups say the measure violates due process and is overused.

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