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Vigil for Palestinian hunger striker Akram Rikhawi
23 July 2012
Photos from the solidarity vigil for Akram Rikhawi, the Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike for a record 102 days, held at the Tower of London on 22nd July 2012. Addameer has since revealed that Akram has now ended his hunger strike, after scoring concessions from the Israeli Prison Service with a release date 6 months prior to the original release date. Another victory for Palestinian prisoners over the occupation.
Thirty-eight-year-old Akram Rikhawi, from the Gaza Strip, is held in solitary confinement in the Israel Prison Service (IPS) clinic in Ramleh prison in Israel, apparently as punishment for his hunger strike. He is being denied regular access to an independent doctor and requires treatment in a civilian prison with the necessary facilities to address his various urgent medical needs. During his hunger strike he has at times only taken water, while at other times he has also taken vitamins.
Akram Rikhawi started his hunger strike in protest at the inadequacy of his medical treatment in prison which led him to request early release although this was denied twice. On 4 July, a doctor from local NGO, Physicians for Human RightsIsrael (PHR-I), finally visited Akram Rikhawi. PHR-I had made several requests to the IPS for him to see an independent doctor as well as an appeal to the District Court, which on 27 June ruled that access should be given no later than 3 July.
He has had only one other visit from a PHR-I doctor which took place on 6 June.
On 4 July, PHR-I said that Akram Rikhawi’s asthma had worsened dramatically and that the “… doctor believes [he] has been given very high doses of steroids as treatment [for asthma], which can cause severe long-term and irreversible damage.” The doctor also reiterated a recommendation made following the June visit that he should be examined by a lung specialist. The doctor also said that his right eye needs to be examined to assess whether he needs surgery for a possible cataract; he has already had surgery for a cataract on his left eye. Akram Rikhawi complained of extreme dizziness, numbness in his left thigh which PHR-I report could indicate peripheral nerve damage. He has difficulty walking and standing but is apparently not being assisted to move around.
On 24 June Akram Rikhawi was taken to Assaf Harofeh Hospital, a public hospital in Israel, where he spent two days shackled to the bed – a form of ill-treatment - until he was transferred back to prison.
From the Addameer report at http://www.addameer.org/etemplate.php?id=491 :
Akram Rikhawi was arrested on 7 June 2004 on his way back to his home in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) stopped the vehicle at the Abu Ghouli checkpoint between Gaza City and Rafah and demanded to see all passenger IDs. After handing over his ID, Akram was immediately arrested. Since the beginning of the Second Intifada in September 2000, the IOF had considered Akram as wanted for arrest.
During his arrest Israeli soldiers removed all his clothes and brought dogs to frighten and intimidate him. Akram was later sentenced in an Israeli military court to nine years imprisonment.
Akram’s family has not been able to visit him since 2006. Following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Israel issued a ban on family visits to all prisoners from Gaza in order to collectively punish the Gaza population. Despite his dangerous and deteriorating health condition, and despite an agreement made by Israel with the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike committee on 14 May to resume family visits to Gaza prisoners within one month, none of Akram’s family members have yet been given permission to visit him.
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