[Pnews] Irish republican prisoners in Belfast go on hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian activist

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 21 15:17:35 EDT 2020

*/2 articles follow/*


  Prisoners embark on hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian doctor

Allison Morris - 19 September 2020

ABOUT 20 dissident republican prisoners being held in top security 
Maghaberry Prison are refusing meals.

The prisoners say they will fast for two weeks in solidarity with 
Palestinian doctor Issam Bassalat, who is being held in a Covid-19 
isolation area in the Co Antrim prison.

He was placed there on Tuesday after returning from a medical 
appointment at Craigavon Area Hospital.

Due to Covid restrictions it has been prison policy since March that 
anyone entering the jail is isolated for 14 days as a precaution.

Dr Bassalat had already carried out the 14 day isolation period when 
remanded into custody last month.

However, has been told he must now do a second period of isolation after 
leaving prison for an MRI scan.

The Edinburgh based GP was refused bail earlier this week.

He faces a single count of preparatory acts of terrorism in connection 
with an alleged New IRA meeting held in Co Tyrone in July that was 
bugged by MI5.

He claims he was entrapped by Dennis McFadden, named in court as an MI5 

Solicitor Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law has expressed concerns about the 
Covid arrangements in the prison, saying his clients were denied a 
change of clothing during isolation and spent 14 days in the same dirty 

The Irish Republican Prisoners’ Welfare Association (IRPWA said that Dr 
Bassalat, was being "forced into isolation in terrible conditions in 
Foyle House” adding that all prisoners under the organisations care 
would be embarking "on a two week hunger strike" over the treatment of 
the Palestinian doctor who they say should be returned to the republican 
separated wing at Roe House.

The Prison Service said it does not comment on individual prisoners.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said: “Since the beginning 
of Covid-19 over 1,000 men have come through the isolation areas and 
into the main prison.

“During the 14 days, a person in the isolated area will have access to 
legal representation, showers, telephones and exercise. Prisoners in 
separation have previously accepted the need for a 14-day isolation 
period when they have left the prison for approved purposes.”

19 September, 2020 01:00 Northern Ireland news


  Irish republican prisoners in Belfast go on hunger strike in
  solidarity with Palestinian activist

Peadar O'Cearnaigh ‌ ‌ 20th September 2020

‌As reported 
by /The Canary/, in August police arrested alleged members of the New 
IRA in the north of Ireland as part of ‘Operation Arbacia’. Police also 
GP and Palestinian activist Dr Issam Hijjawi-Bassalat as part of that 
operation. Hijjawi-Bassalat is currently on remand in Maghaberry Prison 
near Belfast.

Prison authorities placed 
the GP in isolation in Foyle House following his return from hospital 
Meanwhile, the prison service detains 
Irish republican prisoners in Roe House. Republican prisoners told /The 
Canary/ they’ve been on hunger strike since 8pm on 16 September. They 
demand prison authorities move Dr Hijjawi-Bassalat to Roe House.

          *“In solidarity”*

The Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (IRPWA 
<https://www.facebook.com/irpwa/>) told /The Canary/:

    The current hunger strike undertaken by current republican prisoners
    is in solidarity with our Palestinian comrade Dr Issam Hijjawi who
    is also on hunger strike… in isolation in Foyle House.

    The conditions in Foyle House are not fit for human purpose. As we
    have stated in previous statements, an ODC [ordinary decent criminal
    <https://www.encyclo.co.uk/meaning-of-Ordinary_Decent_Criminal>] has
    recently contracted Covid-19 and is situated in Foyle House.
    Conditions are disgusting and unhygienic.

On its social media page, the IRPWA stated 
<https://www.facebook.com/irpwa/posts/2712601322355211> Dr Hijjawi-Bassalat:

    /has multiple health conditions, has insisted that if this /[being
    placed in isolation in Foyle House]/happened he will embark on a
    hungerstrike. We feel that to put Issam in isolation is being
    vindictive and a continuation of the concerted, petty targeting that
    he has endured since entering Maghaberry./

    /The Republican Prisoners in Maghaberry Roe House and Portlaoise
    E3/E4 will support Issam in this stance by engaging in a solidarity
    hungerstrike alongside him./

The prisoner welfare group claims there’s no need for Dr 
Hijjawi-Bassalat’s coronavirus isolation 
in Foyle House. Because it claims 
prison authorities could accommodate him in isolation in the republican 
wing. However, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said 

    Since the beginning of Covid-19 over 1,000 men have come through the
    isolation areas [Foyle House
    <https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-54202281>] and into
    the main prison.

          *Dr Issam Hijjawi-Bassalat*

During Dr Hijjawi-Bassalat’s unsuccessful bail hearing, his defence 
he is “a man of good character” who has “never [been] in trouble 
before”. It also presented 
over 30 character references describing the doctor as being an advocate 
of non-violence and Palestinian human rights.

His solicitor said 
his client once chaired the Palestinian Society in Scotland which is a:

    peaceful and democratic organisation which raises awareness of the
    Palestinian cause

His defence team went on to say 

    He was caught up in the dirty squabble of war between MI5 and Irish
    republicans. These charges are an affront to freedom of speech.

They added:

    My client speaks to numerous groups on Palestine. He went to the
    Saoradh <https://saoradh.irish/> Ard Fheis [AGM of this left wing
    Irish republican party], he was certainly misled. Refusing bail
    drives a coach and horses through the presumption of innocence.
    There are issues of entrapment. Hopefully the prosecution sees sense
    and drops these charges.

Dr Hijjawi-Bassalat claims 
an MI5 agent (Dennis McFadden) “pestered” and lured him to a meeting 
with alleged members of the New IRA.

The Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun expressed 

    full solidarity with Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat and the Irish
    Republican prisoners

          *Conditions in Maghaberry*

In November 2015, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Criminal Justice 
Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) described 
Maghaberry as “a prison in crisis”, with “unsafe and unstable” 
conditions. Nick Hardwick of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons in 
England and Wales said:

    This is one of the worst prisons I’ve ever seen and the most
    dangerous prison I’ve been to

Hardwick also said the prison might not meet minimum UN standards.

          *Hunger strikes by Irish republican prisoners*

Irish republican prisoners have used 
<https://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/27784> hunger 
strikes as a form of political protest in the past. A number of those 
who protested during those years did so to the death. However, this 
protest will continue 
for 14 days.

/The Canary/ contacted the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS 
for comment but it did not respond by the time of publication.

/Featured image via //YouTube – SPSC TV Channel/ 


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