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Israel agree to free hunger striker

A Palestinian prisoner has agreed to end his 66-day hunger strike in protest over his imprisonment without charge after reaching a deal with Israel that will free him in April.

The agreement ended a tense stand-off that left 33-year-old Khader Adnan clinging to life and drew international attention to a controversial Israeli policy of holding suspected Palestinian militants without charge. If "no new additional substantial evidence" emerges against Adnan, he will be released on April 17.

The hunger strike also turned Adnan, a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group, into a hero for Palestinians. Under the deal struck with military prosecutors, Adnan agreed to resume eating immediately, the Israeli Justice Ministry said.

Outside the Jerusalem high court, some two dozen demonstrators waved the Palestinian flag. "Khader is coming home!" they chanted.

Adnan was a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, a group that has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks. It is not known whether he participated in violent acts.

That means his four-month detention order will be counted from the day of his arrest, not the day it was issued several weeks later. The deal also suggests that military prosecutors will not seek extensions, which can often be used to prolong administrative detentions.

The Justice Ministry said Adnan, who remains in hospital, accepted the deal through his attorney. The compromise was announced shortly before the Israeli Supreme Court was to hold an emergency hearing on Adnan's appeal. The court moved the hearing up by two days, over concerns about Adnan's health. He has been held in an Israeli hospital for several weeks because of his condition.

Adnan's supporters and physicians said in recent days that he couldn't survive much longer on his hunger strike. Doctors who treated him said he lost some 60 pounds, his hair was falling out, his skin had turned yellow and that he was in danger of a heart attack.

Adnan's wife, Randa, was ecstatic over the news. "The Israelis had no proof and that's why they've agreed to these four months," she said in a telephone interview. "He's shown by his steadfastness that we can be victorious."

Adnan was arrested from his West Bank home on December 17 and launched his hunger strike the following day.


From Belfast Telegraph