Arab Israelis demand release of Palestinian hunger striker

The demonstration passed off without incident, a police spokeswoman said

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Arab Israelis demonstrated on Friday in support of a Palestinian journalist who has been on hunger strike for 80 days, demanding an end to his detention without trial by Israel.

An AFP journalist in the northern Israeli town of Afula said that firebrand Islamic cleric Raed Salah delivered a sermon to hundreds of worshippers at the end of weekly prayers held outside the hospital where Mohammed al-Qiq is being held under guard.

"Pray for the victory of the prisoner who is being held hostage, oppressed and detained without reason," said Salah, who is himself awaiting the outcome of an appeal against an 11-month jail sentence for inciting violence against the Jewish state.

Qiq, 33, a correspondent for Saudi Arabia's Almajd TV network, was arrested on November 21 at his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah and placed under administrative detention, an Israeli procedure allowing indefinite imprisonment without trial.

He has been refusing food since November 25 in protest against the "torture and ill treatment that he was subjected to during interrogation", according to Addameer, a Palestinian rights organization.

On February 4, Israel's Supreme Court lifted the administrative detention order but ruled that he may not leave hospital.

Qiq responded that he would continue his fast until he is freed.

His lawyers and the Afula hospital say his medical condition means that his life is in grave danger.

His wife Fayha Shalash told reporters late Friday that "his state of health has never been so critical".

Salah, whose radical wing of the Islamic Movement was outlawed by Israel in November, said on Friday he had spoken to Qiq who said he wanted to be transferred to a hospital in Ramallah.

Israeli police told AFP that Friday's protest had been authorised despite the Islamic Movement ban because the request for a permit was not made in its name.

The demonstration passed off without incident, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

In Qiq's hometown of Hebron, in the southern West Bank, hundreds of Palestinians also demonstrated on his behalf, an AFP journalist there said.

Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security service, says Qiq was arrested for "terror activity" as part of the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

He was jailed for a month in 2003 and then for 13 months in 2004 for Hamas-related activities.

In 2008, Qiq was sentenced to 16 months on charges linked to his activities on the student council at the West Bank's Birzeit University.

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