Israel releases pregnant Palestinian prisoner after protests

Anhar Al Deek was allowed to post bail and return home for her delivery amid concerns about her health

Women take part in a protest in front of the Red Cross offices in Ramallah, in the West Bank, to demand the release of Anhar Al Deek from an Israeli prison. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Israeli authorities have released a pregnant Palestinian detainee on bail so she can give birth at her home in the West Bank.

The family of Anhar Al Deek, 25, launched a campaign supported by activists and UN officials calling for her to not be forced to give birth in prison. The last Palestinian woman who gave birth in Israeli custody was in 2008.

Ms Al Deek was arrested in March, when she was four months pregnant, on charges of attempting to stab Israeli settlers in an illegal farming community near the village of Kafr Ni'ma near Ramallah city.

She was being held in Damon Prison along with 40 other women while awaiting trial. Ms Al Deek was released on Thursday night.

“The Israeli court accepted the request, which means she will deliver her baby out of prison among her family,” Ms Al Deek’s lawyer, Akram Samara, told The National.

The court ordered her to post bail of 40,000 Israeli shekels ($12,480).

He said that Ms Al Deek was suffering from depression and other mental health issues.

Ms Al Deek’s husband, Thaier Al Hija, who travelled to meet her at the Jalma crossing north of Jenin, said he had struggled to put together her bail sum.

“I didn’t have it, so my family helped me to collect it,” Mr Al Hija told The National.

Protesters hold placards calling for the release of Anhar Al Deek outside the Red Cross offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah. AFP

After entering the West Bank, Ms Al Deek was taken first to Jenin Hospital by Red Crescent staff for a check-up before travelling to Kafr Ni'ma, where family and neighbours had gathered to welcome her.

“Words can’t express my happiness since I received the news,” Ms Al Deek said.

“I had difficult moments inside when I thought about me and my child inside the prison cell.”

Ms Al Deek’s mother, Aisha, 61, said she had been worried about her daughter’s mental state and the prospect of having to give birth away from her family.

“I can’t express my happiness now. Thanks to God, and to the media and everyone who helped raise Anhar’s case,” she said.

Ms Al Deek wrote to her family last month, describing her fear of giving birth alone in what she called “absolutely abnormal and inhumane conditions”.

She said she was experiencing unbearable pelvic pain because the prison beds were not suitable for pregnant women.

“What shall I do if I give birth away from you? I will be handcuffed and you know the difficulties of a Caesarean operation,” she wrote in her letter, which her family posted on social media.

“How will I go through this experience while alone in prison?”

Ms Al Deek had her first child, a girl named Joila, by Caesarean section two years ago.

In response to her plea, social media activists launched a campaign to demand her release on medical grounds, with the hashtag “Save Anhar Al Deek” trending on Palestinian social media for several weeks.

Ms Al Deek’s family and activists from the Palestinian Prisoners Club – a non-government organisation that supports Palestinians held in Israeli jails – organised sit-in demonstrations in several Palestinian cities, including Ramallah and Gaza city.

The latest was held on Wednesday in front of the offices of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Al Bireh, in the central West Bank.

Last week, Ibrahim Khreisheh, Palestine’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, said he had sent several letters to the special rapporteurs on the UN's Human Rights Council and the ICRC to exert pressure on Israel to release Ms Al Deek.

Israeli prison rules allow new mothers to keep their child with them for up to two years and officials insisted that they were ready to facilitate this for Ms Al Deek if she gave birth in prison.

Updated: September 05, 2021, 6:43 AM