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Israel formally charges six Palestinian prison escapees, places them in solitary confinement

Members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement march in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 27, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli authorities have formally indicted the six Palestinian political prisoners who had tunneled their way out of a maximum security Israeli detention center last month and were arrested later.

The indictment filed by the attorney of the Nazareth central court against the six prisoners includes illegal fleeing from their confinement, a charge that could fetch up to seven years in prison.

A prosecutors’ statement said that the men were charged with escaping from the Gilboa prison in northern part of the occupied territories while five others were accused of assisting them.

According to the charge sheet, at the end of 2020, they began digging a tunnel under the sink of their prison cell’s toilet.

“The defendants carried out the digging work daily in shifts, accommodated to their routine to prevent them from being caught, while using improvised digging tools,” the indictment said.

The prisoners were handed to the Israeli prison authority after the end of an investigation by Israel's internal spy agency Shin Bet.

They were placed in solitary confinement in different prisons.

A lawyer for several of the men previously said the prisoners were briefly banned from accessing their lawyers under an order from the Israeli spy agency.

Some of the prisoners said they were being subject to mental and physical torture by Israeli interrogators.

The detainees had been serving lengthy sentences, including life in jail. 

A former commander of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade in Jenin and five Islamic Jihad members had tunneled their way out through their cell’s drainage system and escaped from the prison on September 6.

Four of the Islamic Jihad members were serving life sentences, while the fifth had been held without charge for two years under a so-called administrative detention order, according to Israeli media.

The Israeli regime has escalated its daily crackdown on Palestinians across the occupied West Bank with more arbitrary arrests, ambushes, nighttime assaults, and security raids following the daring escape of six inmates from the maximum-security Israeli jail.

Jenin has taken the brunt of the escalation in the Israeli aggression since it is where six Palestinians, who escaped from the Israeli prison in the north of the occupied territories on September 6, come from.

Nearly 200 human rights organizations have held Israel fully responsible for the lives and safety of six prisoners.

Prison authorities keep Palestinian inmates under deplorable conditions lacking proper hygienic standards. The prisoners have also been subjected to systematic torture, harassment and repression.

Critics say Israel uses the so-called policy of administrative detention, which is a form of imprisonment in which the individual is never tried and can be held indefinitely, to silence the voices of Palestinians but lacks any concrete evidence that could be presented in an open, military court.

Palestinians say administrative detention is a whole other level of injustice.

Rights groups describe Israel’s use of administrative detention as a “bankrupt tactic” and have long called on Israel to bring its use to an end.

There are reportedly more than 7,000 Palestinians held at Israeli jails. Hundreds of the inmates have been apparently incarcerated under the practice of administrative detention.

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