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MintPress News: Hunger Strikes and the Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders

The MintPress podcast, “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.

In episode 45 of The Watchdog podcast, Lowkey explores the issue of life inside Israeli prisons. Currently, 30 Palestinians are on hunger strike, protesting the Israeli government’s policy of indefinitely detaining their political enemies without trial or evidence. Last week, 900 further prisoners refused their meals as a sign of solidarity.

“We will continue with our struggle, knowing what awaits us of repression, abuse, isolation, confiscation of our clothes and pictures of our children, thrown into concrete cells devoid of everything, except for our bodies and our pain,” the prisoners said in a statement.

The most high profile of the hunger strikers is Salah Al-Hamouri, a French-Palestinian human rights defender. Detained without charge or trial for six months, Al-Hamouri has refused all food since September 25. In response, Israeli authorities unleashed a series of punitive measures, including transferring him to solitary confinement. He is now isolated in a 2×2 meter cell with little to no ventilation.

This, according to Milena Ansari, is par for the course for Palestinians who object to Israeli domination. “I don’t think there is any violation that hasn’t taken place on Salah,” she told Lowkey today, noting that he was detained while still a schoolboy, shot at, and arrested six times. Milena Ansari is the international advocacy officer for Addameer, a prisoner support and human rights association. Addameer monitors the treatment of people arrested in the West Bank and Gaza by both the Israeli police and by the Palestinian Authority.

Also joining us on the Watchdog podcast today is Rula Jamal LLM, head of monitoring and documentation at al-Haq, an independent Palestinian human rights organization based in Ramallah. Al-Haq was established by a collective of human rights lawyers in 1979.

Last year, the Israeli government designated both Addameer and al-Haq as terrorist groups, a move that was condemned by Amnesty International and other leading organizations.

Jamal explained that Al-Hamouri’s case was far from unusual, except in the worldwide attention it was receiving, telling Lowkey that,

…The Israeli occupation detains Palestinians solely upon ‘secret evidence’ that is neither disclosed to the detainees themselves, nor their lawyers. Palestinians under administrative detention can be held for an indefinite time, without ever receiving any charges or evidence against them for their detention, or ever standing a fair trial.”

Watch or listen to the full broadcast exclusively at MintPress.

Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times.

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