Israel court rules Palestinian hunger striker to stay in jail

A Palestinian man carries a sign bearing a portrait of Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qiq, whose life is endangered after a 64-day-old hunger strike (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

Jerusalem (AFP) - A hunger-striking Palestinian journalist is to remain in Israeli jail despite warnings over his deteriorating health, the country's top court ruled Wednesday.

The Supreme Court said it would not release Mohammed al-Qiq immediately but would follow his health on a daily basis.

Qiq has been on hunger strike for 63 days over his detention under Israel's administrative detention law and his organs are at risk of failure any day, his legal team says.

The European Union on Wednesday said it was "especially concerned" about his deteriorating health.

After 50 days of a hunger strike, the risk of death grows daily, experts say, with few able to survive beyond 70 days if only drinking water.

His lawyer Jawad Boulus asked the Supreme Court to release him but the three judges ruled that an earlier decision by a military court to detain him was legal.

Boulus said the judges were "briefed on classified material and are convinced" that Qiq "constitutes a danger to the security of Israel," so declined to overturn the military court's ruling.

The evidence provided by the Shin Bet security services was presented to the judges without witnesses, who had to leave the room.

Under Israel's controversial administrative detention law, the state can hold suspects for renewable six-month periods without trial.

Qiq, a 33-year-old father of two and a correspondent for Saudi Arabia's Almajd television, was arrested on November 21 at his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Shin Bet said he was arrested for "terror activity" as a member of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

He denies the charges and has been refusing food since November 25 in protest at the "torture and ill-treatment that he was subjected to during interrogation", according to Addameer, a Palestinian human rights organisation.

During the trial, which was attended by four Arab members of the Israeli parliament, judge Elyakim Rubinstein brought up the case of Mohammed Allan.

Allan ended a two-month hunger strike last summer after Israel suspended his detention without trial. During his strike and after his release he became a symbol of resistance for many Palestinians.

Rubinstein asked how long after abandoning his strike Allan was able to return to health, and he was told about a month by lawyer Boulus.

Over 680 Palestinians are currently under administrative detention, out of 6,800 in jail in Israeli prisons, according to Addameer.

Qiq was jailed for a month in 2003 and then for 13 months in 2004 for Hamas-related activities.

In 2008, he was sentenced to 16 months in prison on charges linked to his activities on the student council at the West Bank's Birzeit University.