Prominent Jerusalem institutions and personalities stressed the need to raise the local and international profile of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, especially those coming from Jerusalem.
The conference held on 23-4-2008† and was organized by the† Civic Coalition for Defending the Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem. Speaking were Adnan Husseini, engineer and adviser on Jerusalem to the President, Bishop Attallah Hanna of the Greek Orthdox Church, Ahmed Rwaidy, lawyer and Head of the Jerusalem unit in the Office of the President, as well as a number of dignitaries and representatives of Palestine legal institutions. Abdel Rahman Abu Arafeh, director of the Arab Thought Forum chaired the conference.
Participants discussed a recent study of the situation faced by Jerusalemite prisoners in light of the racial discrimination they face.
Husseini stressed that the prisoners issue is at the forefront of Mahmoud Abbasí agenda. He added that this has been a central issue throughout the occupation, and that it is part of Israeli attempts to reduce citizensí rights and isolate individuals from their nation and cause. He stressed that a solution to the prisoners issue is a requisite part of a final settlement and they will not be held ransom. He added the importance of remembering the sacrifice those prisoners made for the wider cause. Hasani pointed out that the president put the Palestinian prisoners among the important priorities.
The Defence for Children International Foundation prepared a study of the Prisoners of Jerusalem in Israeli Jails and this was presented by Sahar Francis. The study detailed many important aspects of the detention of Jerusalemite prisoners. Their health, legal and educational statuses were similar in many respects to the rest of the Palestinian prison population, reflecting a unified Israeli policy towards Palestinian prisoners.
The study advocated increased attention to the Prisonersí economic, social and moral conditions by political parties, institutions and officials, and the need for prompt intervention by human rights and international institutions to alleviate their suffering, especially with regard to the treatment of prisonersí families during visits.
The study recommended expanding the circle of support to include legal expenses, the provision of lawyers to pursue cases of family life in Israeli courts, issues such as education, food, provision of sports halls and open areas, and all of the cases where the rules of procedure are violated.
The study recommended strengthening the capacity of frameworks in Jerusalem that provide a real and sustained support to the prisoners to fill the deficit in the relevant institutions.
It recommended the promotion of communication and joint work between the frameworks and institutions active since 1948 on the many common legal issues.
Bishop Hanna explained in his speech that the importance of the day lies in the centrality of Jerusalem to the Palestinian territories. He pointed to an example days before when Israeli authorities prevented a special ceremony to honour prisoners of Jerusalem, and said: "The convening of the conference today confirms to the Palestinians in this city that no force is capable of uprooting it from our identity.
He stressed that the Palestinian prisoner in Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinian people and cause, regardless of his location or origin. This must be recognized in dealing with the discriminatory policies applied by Israeli authorities when dealing with family issues.
He added that the entire Palestinian people are in a prison, and called for the standardization of efforts towards the welfare of Jerusalemís prisoners and a joint working paper to be launched at global and local levels.
Twenty eight year old former prisoner Walid Habas recounted his experience in the Jerusalem jail. He was arrested in 2002 and ended his five year sentence last year. He pointed out the isolation and restrictions on movement within the prisons and the discrimination suffered by Palestinians within the prison system.
Ahmed Rwaidy explained that solving the prisoners issue required that the general public take the initiative and apply pressure through events and movements to expose the effect of occupation policies on prisoners.
The conference was attended by many families of the prisoners.