Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images

Israel suspends detention of Palestinian journalist on hunger strike

Mohammed al-Qeq, on strike for 72 days and in poor health, reportedly rejects suspension, continues call for release

Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday suspended the detention without trial of a Palestinian journalist who has been on hunger strike for more than two months and is reportedly near death, but said he cannot leave an Israeli hospital without permission.

Mohammed al-Qeq, a news reporter for Saudi channel Al Majd, has refused food and medical treatment since Nov. 24, three days after he was arrested.

Qeq, 33, is protesting his six-month sentence under Israel’s administrative detention law — a controversial form of imprisonment that allows Israeli authorities to detain individuals indefinitely without charge or trial if they are deemed a security threat.

Israel's Shin Bet security agency alleges that the West Bank resident and father of two has “incited” violence and is involved in “terrorist activities” linked to the armed group and political party Hamas. However, Qeq has denied the charges.

The court said Qeq’s detention order was being suspended due to his ailing health, and that his family will be allowed to visit him in hospital. However, the detention was not overturned and could be reinstated after Qeq’s health improves.

Samidoun, an advocacy group for Palestinian political prisoners, said on Thursday that Qeq had promptly rejected the “suspension” of his sentence, and was instead calling for it to be completely lifted. Al Jazeera could not confirm the report.

Fayha Salash, Qeq’s wife, previously told Al Jazeera that her husband would accept nothing less than complete freedom: “He asked that we accept the outcome of his hunger strike, even his death. He said, ‘I either live free or I die in dignity.’”

The International Committee of the Red Cross said last week that Qeq's life was in danger.

Since Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank in 1967, its military has placed thousands of Palestinians in administrative detention. Over 680 Palestinians are currently in administrative detention, out of the total 6,800 in Israeli prisons, according to Addameer, a Palestinian rights organization.

For Palestinians in Israeli prisons, hunger strikes have become a common way of drawing public attention to their plight and challenging their treatment or detainment.

"The only way Mohammad al-Qeq feels he is able to challenge his detention, without charge, is with his body,” said Sunjeev Bery, Middle East-North Africa advocacy director at Amnesty International USA. “Under administrative detention, Palestinian detainees have been imprisoned without knowing why they’re being imprisoned or when they might be released.”

Other local and international groups, including Reporters Without Borders and the European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah, have also raised concerns over Israel’s use of administrative detention and called for Qeq’s release.

Israeli authorities, however, have so far refused to overturn his sentence.

Al Jazeera and wire services. Ehab Zahriyeh contributed to this report.

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