Dear Minister McCully,
There are currently many thousands of Palestinian prisoners, men, women and children in Israeli jails. Some 750 are in prison under ‘administrative detention’ which means no charges, no lawyers, no trial.
I am writing to you about one particular case, that of Bilal Kayed, which is receiving international attention because of, not just the case itself, but the precedent that it sets.
Bilal Kayed, from Nablus, West Bank has been imprisoned since 14 December 2001, when he was sentenced to 14.5 years for his affiliation with the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was 19 at the time.
While in prison, Bilal has been repeatedly punished, with family visit bans and solitary confinement. On the day he was due to released, having served his 14.5 year sentence his sister who had flown in from Germany, joined the parents to welcome Bilal home. That very day, the family was told that Bilal would not be released, but would be held under ‘administrative detention.’ Administrative detention, as I have explained , means no charge is made, no trial is held. Bilal, in protest, went on, and remains on hunger strike.
As of this writing, he has been on hunger strike for nearly 70 days. He is still alive, but shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed. Other prisoners are on hunger strike too, in sympathy. The fear is that the Israelis will make a normal practice of renewing arrests after prisoners serve their sentences.
Concerned citizens around the world are holding public protests demanding that Bilal Kayed be released and that the practice of ‘administration detention’ be condemned.
Demonstrations have been held in many countries including Ireland, Spain, France, Australia, USA, Iceland, Turkey, Jordan, Naples has made Bilal an honorary citizen.
UN Official Robert Piper, Coordinator for Humanitarian and UN Development Activities for the occupied Palestinian territory, has called on the Israeli occupation to “charge or release” Bilal Kayed.
Mr Piper has said “I am deeply concerned about the deteriorating health of Palestinian detainee Bilal Kayed, after 67 days of a hunger strike protesting his detention without charge or trial. This is an egregious case, in which Mr. Kayed was placed on administrative detention on the day of his scheduled release after completing a 14.5 year prison sentence.“The number of administrative detainees is at an eight-year high. I reiterate the United Nations long-standing position that all administrative detainees – Palestinian or Israeli – should be charged or released without delay.”
Would you please speak out on this case. Do you agree with UN Official Robert Piper that Bilal Kayed must be released and that the policy of administrative detention must be abolished? Are you, as New Zealand’s representative on the UN Security Council willing to speak out publicly?
ps Several members of the European Parliament have posed behind fake prison bars to raise awareness about the over 7000 Palestinian political prisoners who are currently held in Israeli jails. Of these over 700 are administrative detainees, 6 are elected officials and over 350 are children.