Iconic Palestinian hunger striker freed

Record-breaking Palestinian hunger striker Samer al-Issawi was freed Monday to return to his home in Jerusalem

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Record-breaking Palestinian hunger striker Samer al-Issawi was freed on Monday to return to his home in Jerusalem after serving 17 months in an Israeli jail.

Al Arabiya’s correspondent said Issawi will need about two hours to reach his home in Jerusalem after his release from Shatta Prison in northern Israel. Crowds of people, ready to celebrate, were waiting for Issawi to arrive in Jerusalem.

Issawi ended his hunger strike on April 23, after agreeing to a deal brokered between Palestinian and Israeli officials requiring him to serve eight months in prison for violating his parole conditions.

He was previously arrested in 2002, and was handed down a 30-year jail sentence for participating in attacks against Israeli police cars and students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After serving nine years in jail, he was released in October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel.

The deal was brokered by Egypt’s then-Islamist government, led by President Mohammad Mursi, and secured the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Nine months later, in July 2012, Issawi was re-arrested under the long-standing Israeli administrative detention law that dates back to the period of the British mandate in Palestine and which authorizes the arrest of Palestinians deemed a “threat” to Israel.

Challenging his arrest, Issawi went on hunger strike, attracting the support of Palestinian and international activists. After 266 days of consuming only water and receiving vitamins through an intravenous drip, Israel agreed to his release as concerns grew about possible international outcry in the event of his death.

In response, a Free Samer Issawi Campaign was launched in January 2013, attracting more than 10,000 “likes” on Facebook.

“The Global Campaign for Palestinian Political Prisoners warmly congratulates Samer Issawi on his victory over the Zionist oppressors, against whom he waged the longest hunger strike in recorded human history in order to secure his release,” the campaign wrote on its Facebook page on Sunday.

“We are monitoring Samer’s release closely, and will immediately resume our campaigns if we notice any violations of the agreement by the Zionist occupation authorities. Samer is a hero to us, to the entire Palestinian population inside of Palestine and in the diaspora, and to millions of supporters around the world,” it added.

The campaign stressed that “if Samer is not released as agreed, we will call upon these masses to immediately organize protests and campaigns against such violations.”

The campaign reported on Sunday that Issawi’s family “was ordered by Israeli terror police earlier today not to celebrate and take down the flags at their home. However the village of Issawia and the rest of Jerusalem vow to celebrate Samer's victorious release! The whole world will celebrate with Jerusalem and no one will stop us.”

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