Monday, May 11, 2009

Prisoners denounce pope for visiting family of captured soldier

Date: 11 / 05 / 2009 Time: 15:20

Gaza - Ma'an - The families of several Palestinian prisoners set up camp in front of the Red Cross building in Gaza City on Monday, in protest of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the family of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The families urged him to visit them, and to note the situation of their own sons in Israeli prisons. Moreover, the families asked that the pope visit them in Gaza to hear of their sons suffering in Israeli jails, and to pressure the Israeli government to free them.

The father of Palestinian prisoner Ali Al-Sarafati urged rights organizations to focus on the issue of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, and insisted that it was unfair for the pope to attend to the concerns of a single Israeli soldier and ignore the more than 11,000 Palestinians held by Israel.

Mwafeq Hameed, the general relations for the Gaza Organization of Prisoners and Former Prisoners, sent a message to the pope encouraging him to board a plane to visit the Gaza Strip’s prisoners. He said, "Our prisoners are suffering more than the Israeli prisoner Glad Shalit, as they lack the most simple human rights of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Hameed went on to say that the Israeli prison administration has punished some 240 prisoners who refused to wear orange jumpsuits by preventing them from using restrooms, purchasing items and even eating lunch.

He called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to intervene on the international level to pressure Israel to release jailed Palestinians, particularly political prisoners. He also denounced the continuos Israeli arrests and detainment Palestinians seized during the Gaza assault, which Israel has labeled "illegal combatants."