PALESTINIAN POLITICAL PRISONERS DEMONSTRATE IN
MEGIDDO AND NAFHAH PRISONS IN ISRAEL

March 23, 1997

LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment PO Box 20873 Jerusalem, via Israel Tel: (972) (2) 5812364/5824559 Fax: (972) (2) 5811072 email: lawe@netvision.net.il

Frustrated over months and in most cases, years of continued detention without trial, 220 Palestinian administrative detainees rioted in Megiddo prison last Wednesday. Palestinian prisoners in the prison joined the administrative detainees and chaos ensued for six hours: soldiers fired tear gas, tents caught on fire, the electricity shortaged and an entire section of the prison burned down. Tens of detainees were injured from tear gas inhalation and were beaten by soldiers as they were taken to the prison clinic for treatment. Lawyers and the Red Cross were forbidden from entering the prison for three days.

The detainees began demonstrating after they were informed of yet another extension of their detention without charges or trial. These riots follow six months of non-violent protest by the Palestinian administrative detainees over the continued extensions of their detentions and by their increasing frustration at not being released.

None of the Palestinian administrative detainees have been charged, tried or convicted of any offenses or crimes. They are being held by the Israeli security service for their political opinions and criticism of the Oslo agreement - views held by most Palestinians today and many Israelis, including the Prime Minister of Israel.

On the same day, Palestinian prisoners rioted in Nafha prison in the Negev desert over poor prison conditions and over their continued imprisonment. The prisoners shouted, banged on the doors and several prisoners clashed with prison authorities.

Although the Israeli government committed to release the Palestinian administrative detainees and prisoners two years ago in the interim agreement ("Oslo 2"), it has yet to take any steps towards fulfilling its commitment. Aside from the 700 Palestinians released in 1995 (whose sentences were about to expire at that time anyway) and 30 female prisoners recently released, 3000 Palestinians remain in Israeli prisons. Israel's reneging on the prisoner issue is yet another source for further instability in the area; unless a prisoner release is set in motion, further riots and demonstrations are likely to ensue in and outside of the prisons. LAW calls on the Israeli government to fulfill its commitments undertaken in the Oslo Accords and release the Palestinian prisoners beginning with all the Palestinian administrative detainees, the elderly, infirm and minors. The release could also be the first step in a set of confident-building measures aimed at strengthening popular support for the peace process.