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Martina Anderson MEP meets prisoner groups in West Bank

31 October, 2013 - by Martina Anderson MEP

Martina Anderson Sinn Fein MEP has held meetings with Palestinian prisoners groups in Palestine as part of her recent visit to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Speaking from Palestine, Martina said:

"On Monday I was invited to attend a meeting with Issa Quarage, the Palestinian Prisoners Affairs minister in the West Bank. During this meeting we discussed the plight of the nearly 5000 prisoners in Israeli gaols. As a former Political Prisoner, I couldnt help but notice so many similarities between our own struggle and that of the Palestinians."

She continued "Many Palestinians are rounded up, arrested and held indefinitely on what the Isareli Government refers to as  "Administrative Detention" a phrase we know only too well in Ireland as "Internment without Trial."  These 6 month detentions can be extended again and again, some have stretched for years for certain prisoners. Indeed the former Palestinian hungerstriker Khader Adnan was a victim to this repeated internment. I received updates on Marwan Barghouti, known as the Palestinian Mandela and I was sad to hear he would not be part of any early prisoner release such as the one I was honoured to witness.

"Seeing thousands of well wishers and family members light up the night with cheers as the 26 prisoners walked out as free men was a sight I will never forget. The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his speech mentioned Karim Younis the longest serving “Pal 48” Prisoner. During the 31 years he has been behind bars he has worked as a prisoner representative and spends his days reading documents and books. He has become a proficient writer, authoring two books on the nature of the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinian people I have raised this issue already this morning. It is worth mentioning that there are also currently 16 female prisoners, none were included in the 26 who were released when I was visiting."

“I then held private meetings with the Yousef Al Sedeeq Institute for Prisoners Protection.  Abu Shikba, the director of the Organisation, and Feras Omari  who works as the Operations Manager, are both former Prisoners themselves. Much like our Tar Abhaile back home in Derry, Yousef Al Sedeeq is run by former prisoners so I felt among comrades. It is a very special organisation having been set up to help protect, educate and assist individual cases for the “Palestine 48” Prisoners (ie prisoners who live within the State of Israel and who are classified as Israeli Arabs) who fall between the cracks due to their unique status of being "Israeli Citizens.".

"Nidal delivered updates on the conditions of the prisoners, and the difficulty of their cases and situation.  This makes their case more difficult to deal with and it is the hope of Yousef Al Sedeeq Association and it's European partner UFree, that their individual cases can be heard in EU courts.  During our meeting we explored possible cooperation with myself and other members of the EU Parliament in order to generate support for their cases within and across the EU."

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