Jailed Palestinian Activist Ends Hunger Strike, Amid Signs Of Possible Release
The campaign being waged by international pro-Palestinian activists against the incarceration of Zakarya Zubeidi is beginning to show signs of success, friends of the Jenin Freedom Theater co-founder said Thursday.
Zubeidi, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp and a former leading militant turned cultural activist, has been under Palestinian Authority custody since May and went on hunger strike September 9.
Colleagues of his from the Freedom Theater said Zubeidi was promised late Wednesday that the next session of deliberations regarding his arrest would be pushed up by 12 days, to take place this coming Sunday at the Jericho District Court.
In exchange for the expedited deliberations, Zubeidi was asked to put an end to his hunger strike – which since Monday has included refusal to drink fluids.
Colleagues in the the Freedom Theater confirmed that Zubeidi has halted his hunger strike, adding that senior sources in the Palestinian Preventive Forces and in Fatah have said Zubeidi could be released on Sunday.
Members of the Jenin theater plan to travel to Ramallah on Thursday to present Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with a petition signed by 3,000 people from various countries, expressing disgust at Zubeidi's continued incarceration without indictment.
In addition, Pro-Palestinian activists around the world have contacted Palestine Liberation Organization delegations to protest the imprisonment.
Zubeidi was a leading commander of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Abbas' Fatah party, at the height of the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s.
But in 2006 he turned to "cultural resistance," as part of an Israeli-PA agreement under which Israel removed gunmen off its list of wanted militants, if they signed documents pledging to cease armed attacks.
He was jailed by the Palestinian Authority on May 5 in a wave of arrests following the death of former Jenin Governor Kadura Musa, who succumbed to a fatal heart attack shortly after armed attackers opened fire on his home.
Most of those jailed in the crackdown have already been released, following torturous conditions in the Palestinian security prison. Zubeidi has remained in custody even though his investigation has ended, and the Palestinian prosecution has been unable to prove any of the accusations lodged against him in the media.
A Palestinian district court extended his arrest last Sunday by an addition 19 days for "investigation purposes".
According to Zubeidi's colleagues in the Freedom Theater, representatives of the European Union have contacted Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to express their concern regarding Zuebidi in particular, and the treatment of prisoners held by the PA in general.
PA security forces on Tuesday arrested some sixty Palestinians, most of them members of Hamas, as well as others who participated in the demonstrations against the high cost of living in the West Bank. A protest was held on their behalf in Hebron on Wednesday.