“My uncle made a decision and we support him, because we live life once; we either live it with dignity or we die fighting for it.” -Yasmine, Akram’s niece and adopted daughter
Date of Birth: 11 May 1973
Place of residence: Rafah, Gaza
Marital status: Married with eight children
Date of arrest: 7 June 2004
Sentence: 9 years
Place of detention: Ramleh prison medical center
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On 22 July 2012, Akram Rikhawi ended his 102-day hunger strike upon reaching an agreement that he would be released on 25 January 2013, six months prior to his original release date.
Akram Rikhawi was arrested on 7 June 2004 on his way back to his home in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) stopped the vehicle at the Abu Ghouli checkpoint between Gaza City and Rafah and demanded to see all passenger IDs. After handing over his ID, Akram was immediately arrested. Since the beginning of the Second Intifada in September 2000, the IOF had considered Akram as wanted for arrest.
In one of his first lawyer visits following his arrest, Akram reported that he had been subjected to ill-treatment. During his transfer to the detention center, Israeli soldiers removed all his clothes and brought dogs to frighten and intimidate him. Akram was later sentenced in an Israeli military court to nine years imprisonment.
Akram has been held in Ramleh prison medical center since his arrest, as he suffers from many chronic conditions, including asthma. Prior to his arrest, Akram received injections of Kenacort to treat his asthma, but following his arrest, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) did not allow Akram to take this injection. Instead, it was replaced with injections of cortisone, which is most likely the cause of severe complications, resulting in additional chronic illnesses such as diabetes and osteoporosis, from which Akram now suffers. Akram underwent surgery in his left eye while in prison due to deterioration of his eye lenses and glaucoma. He also suffers from high cholesterol, kidney problems, and immune deficiency.
Akram began his hunger strike on 12 April in protest against his request for early release not being granted despite his medical condition. He called for his immediate release due to the seriousness of his health condition and what he calls deliberate medical neglect by the IPS since his arrest. Every prisoner is entitled to ask to be considered for an earlier release when he has served at least two thirds of his sentence. In 2010, Akram had a court hearing for early release, which was denied. On 5 June 2012, his appeal for an early release on medical grounds was rejected.
During a visit with an Addameer lawyer on 31 May, Akram confirmed that he began refusing medical examinations by prison doctors two weeks prior. As a result, the IPS increased the dosage of his cortisone injection, which caused his health condition to worsen.
Throughout his hunger strike, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) has made numerous requests to gain access to Akram, which were all denied until 6 June. Following the visit on 6 June, the PHR-Israel doctor reported that Akram suffers from extreme loss of muscle tissue and drastic weight loss. His weight had decreased from 68 kilos to 50 kilos, which is a total loss of 26.5 percent. The PHR-Israel doctor determined that a combination of inflammation of prior chronic illnesses and the complications of hunger strike render hospitalization immediately necessary. The IPS doctors’ threats to force-feed and force-treat him, in addition to their determination not to recommend his medicalcondition as worthy of earlier release from prison, has led Akram to regard them with deep distrust. Thus, he often refuses to receive treatmentfor his chronic illnesses, or the complications they generate.
PHR-Israel‘s independent doctor strongly recommended that Akram be immediately transferred to a hospital, as he is at immediate risk of death. On 14 June, the Israeli District Court rejected an appeal filed by PHR-Israel to transfer Akram to a civilian hospital, despite his deteriorating health.
During a visit with Addameer lawyer Mona Neddaf on 19 June, Ms. Neddaf observed that Akram was extremely tired and weak and weighed only 49 kilos. Furthermore, since 16 June he was refusing any vitamins and fluids through an IV. Though he was sustaining himself on water alone, Ms. Neddaf was troubled to observe that even drinking water is now very difficult for him and he is only able to consume approximately one liter per day. Akram had not received a visit from an independent doctor since 6 June, as Israeli authorities continually deny requests by PHR-Israel. Akram emphasized to Ms. Neddaf his wishes to be immediately transferred to a civilian hospital for proper care. Akram commented that his morale remained high, though he felt his case has been forgotten in the media and other spheres. Akram received considerable pressure from the IPS administration to end his hunger strike.
Akram is married and has eight children, including five daughters and three sons. After Akram’s brother passed away 22 years ago, Akram has also cared for his brother’s five children in his home since they were very young.
Yasmine, Akram’s niece, says that her uncle was the main source of financial and emotional support for each and every member of their family and that his detention has been extremely difficult for them. She commented that his family was always his first priority and that he was the main support for his children in their studies, which his family misses deeply. Yasmine says that she cannot wait for the day when the whole family can gather in one place again. She describes Akram as “the number-one discussion starter” and that he is constantly reading all kinds of books.
Akram’s family has not been able to visit him since 2006. Following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Israel issued a ban on family visits to all prisoners from Gaza in order to collectively punish the Gaza population. Despite his dangerous and deteriorating health condition, and despite an agreement made by Israel with the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike committee on 14 May to resume family visits to Gaza prisoners within one month, none of Akram’s family members have yet been given permission to visit him.
Before his hunger strike, when Akram communicated with his family or lawyers, he always made sure to assure his family that he is doing well and that all he needs is their support and prayers in order to continue his struggle against the occupation.
Here is how you can help Akram Rikhawi:
*Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Akram Rikhawi be released immediately and receive adequate medical care.
- Brigadier General Danny Efroni
Military Judge Advocate General
6 David Elazar Street
Harkiya, Tel Aviv
Fax: +972 3 608 0366; +972 3 569 4526
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
- Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon
OC Central Command Nehemia Base, Central Command
Neveh Yaacov, Jerusalam
Fax: +972 2 530 5741
- Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak
Ministry of Defense
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya
Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 691 6940 / 696 2757
- Col. Eli Bar On
Legal Advisor of Judea and Samaria PO Box 5
Beth El 90631
Fax: +972 2 9977326
*Write to your own elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Akram Rikhawi.