Sunday, June 10, 2012

'Outrage' as Israel refuses to hospitalize hunger strikers

May 31, 2012 Ma'an

Soccer players in Mahmoud al-Sarsak's hometown Rafah called for his release.

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Rights groups on Thursday expressed outrage at Israeli authorities "disregard" of the immediate danger to the lives of two Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

Mahmoud al-Sarsak has been on hunger strike for 74 days and Akram al-Rekhawi has refused food for 50 days.

Physicians for Human Rights - Israel petitioned an Israeli court on May 24 demanding immediate access by doctors to al-Sarsak and al-Rekhawi.

An Israeli court on Wednesday gave the prison service 12 days to allow independent doctors to visit them "in complete disregard of their grave health conditions and the possibility that time is running out," the prisoner support group Addameer said in a statement.

Al-Sarsak and al-Rekhawi are being held in Ramle prison clinic and the Israeli prison service is refusing to transfer them to a civilian hospital.

Addameer, PHRI and the legal rights group Al-Haq said the Israeli Prison Service was blatantly breaching health rights.

The groups demanded that Israel immediately allow independent doctors and families to visit the prisoners.

Noting the high risk of death, the groups said the prison clinic was not equipped to treat the detainees and they must be admitted to hospital.

Earlier this month, PHRI explained that the prison clinic cannot perform lab tests on site and so doctors do not have up-to-date information on patients' conditions. "This information is critical to the patient's care," the group said.

The clinic does not have emergency buzzers, and detainees must shout for help, it added.

Unlocking the cells is a time-consuming procedure, prohibiting fast access in medical emergencies, and the clinics are ill-equipped and do not have heart monitors, PHR-I added.

Al-Sarsak, a soccer player on Palestine's national team, has been jailed without charge since July 2009. He went on hunger strike on March 19 after Israel extended his detention for the sixth time without presenting any charges against him.

Al-Rekhawi has been held in Ramle prison clinic since his detention in June 2004, suffering from diabetes, asthma and osteoporosis. He was sentenced to nine years. As he has served more than two-thirds of his sentence he is entitled to ask for parole and is demanding Israel considers his medical condition.

On Wednesday, al-Sarsak's mother told Ma'an she thinks of him "every minute as he is hungry and dying."

"Are they waiting to bring him dead to me? Why is there no one moving to save his life?"

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