Jailed Palestinian lawmaker urges MPs worldwide to back hunger strike

Jailed Palestinian lawmaker Marwan Barghouti this week called on parliamentarians around the world to support hundreds of Palestinians jailed by Israel who are now waging an open-ended hunger strike to demand better conditions.

In a letter sent from prison, Barghouti — a member of the Fatah movement’s Central Committee and leader of the hunger strike — stressed the need to show support for the hunger strikers and ensure respect for international law.

“Hunger strikes are a legitimate and peaceful means of resisting [Israeli] violations of prisoners’ rights, which are guaranteed under international law,” Barghouti wrote.

“We have decided to wage this hunger strike because Israel has left us no other choice,” he added.

Israel, he asserted, “without any restraint, continues to detain Palestinian MPs without trial, 13 of whom remain behind bars”.

Addressing lawmakers worldwide, Barghouti accused Israeli parliamentarians of supporting and inciting the arrest of their Palestinian counterparts.

“They [Israeli lawmakers] sit next to you in international parliamentary forums while simultaneously denying us our rights,” he wrote.

Led by Barghouti, more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners began an open-ended hunger strike on 17 April to demand more prison visits, better medical care and improved treatment for female inmates.

Barghouti, 58, has spent 15 years behind bars since being arrested by Israel in 2002 during the Second Palestinian Intifada (“uprising”), during which he served as a leader of Fatah’s armed wing.

While Israel views Barghouti as a security threat, opinion polls have consistently shown him to be the most popular choice among Palestinians to succeed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to Palestinian figures, Israel is currently holding more than 6,500 Palestinians — including 57 women and 300 children — at 24 prisons and detention centres throughout the country.

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