Palestinian hunger striker regains consciousness after court ruling

A Palestinian on a two-month hunger strike regained consciousness Thursday following a medically induced coma as debate raged over a decision by Israel`s top court to suspend his detention without trial.

Jerusalem: A Palestinian on a two-month hunger strike regained consciousness Thursday following a medically induced coma as debate raged over a decision by Israel`s top court to suspend his detention without trial.

The High Court`s ruling on Wednesday sparked criticism from Palestinian activists who said it had come too late and Israeli ministers claiming judges had given in to "blackmail".

Mohammed Allan`s case has captured the attention of both the Israeli and Palestinian public, while putting the Jewish state under increasing pressure as the 31-year-old`s health worsened.

Islamic Jihad says that Allan, a lawyer from the West Bank, is a member of the Palestinian militant movement, as does Israel.

He has been held since November in a form of internment known as administrative detention, which was temporarily lifted by Wednesday`s ruling.

However, the court said he must remain in hospital pending a final decision on his case.

Israeli prosecutors told the court they would release him if he were found to have irreversible brain damage, but the ruling left open the question of what would happen if or when his health improves.

The hospital where he was being treated in Ashkelon in southern Israel said Thursday that Allan had regained consciousness and was being informed of the court`s decision.

Doctors had placed Allan in a coma due to his deteriorating condition on Wednesday before the court`s ruling. 

He was said to be suffering brain damage, apparently due to a vitamin deficiency caused by his hunger strike, though it was unclear whether the damage was permanent.

"Now he`s awake. He`s very weak," Dr Chezy Levy, the director of Barzilai hospital, told journalists. "He started to speak with those next to him."

Asked whether Allan had broken his hunger strike, which began on June 18, Levy said "not yet".

"Now we are telling him what happened and what were the legal decisions yesterday, in order to convince him to start to get some fluids and some sugar through his stomach and intestines in order to gradually start to feed him normally."

It was the second time Allan had been in a coma since last week. He had slipped into a coma Friday, prompting doctors to give him fluids, vitamins and minerals intravenously and to place him on a respirator.

His condition improved, and by Tuesday he was conscious and taken off the respirator. He had pledged to resume his hunger strike and even stop ingesting water if his case were not resolved, Palestinian activists supporting his cause said.Adalah, a rights group that petitioned the court for Allan`s release, said judges should have acted on the request when it was first filed on August 17.

"The court may have accepted the petition but this occurred after Mohammed Allan`s case became extremely cruel and inhumane, and brought him to the brink of death," a statement said.

But members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s right-wing government saw the ruling as capitulating to a hunger strike they view as "blackmail".

Some said a controversial law passed last month allowing for the force-feeding of prisoners in certain circumstances should have been invoked.

"The High Court gave in to blackmail by the terrorist Mohammed Allan instead of applying the law on forced feeding," Culture Minister Miri Regev tweeted.

Administrative detention allows for internment without charge for six-month periods and can be renewed indefinitely. Israel uses it to hold Palestinians deemed to be security risks, while not divulging what the authorities view as sensitive intelligence.

Allan`s lawyers argued that his condition negated authorities` claims that he posed a danger.

Around 340 Palestinians are now held in administrative detention, and detainees have regularly gone on hunger strike to protest.

Jewish extremists have also been held under the measure, though in far fewer cases.

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