Release of Palestinian activist welcomed

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Dr Issam Hijjawi Bassalat, the Palestinian Scottish doctor imprisoned since August 2020 on political charges in a British jail in the north of Ireland, was released on bail on Monday, 13 December after 15 months of imprisonment.

He arrived to his home in Scotland early the next day and is now with his children, from whom he has been separated for 16 months.

Dr Bassalat was caught up in a British effort to imprison the leadership of republican party Saoradh in an MI5 ‘sting’ engineered by British infiltrator, Dennis McFadden. McFadden organised a bugged meeting with members of Saoradh and invited the Edinburgh family doctor to discuss international solidarity and the Palestinian cause.

During his time behind bars, Dr Bassalat was forced to undertake a hunger strike to receive medical treatment. He eventually received surgery for his severe spinal injury after months of protest, had no appropriate space to receive physiotherapy and finally suffered a heart attack behind bars.

Dozens of human rights activists and concerned organisations have been attending the virtual trial sessions in Dr Bassalat’s case. Despite his repeated applications for bail and ongoing serious health conditions, his bail application was repeatedly denied. Even after he suffered a heart attack behind bars that caused permanent damage to his heart, the initial court hearing in the case ruled that his “circumstances have not changed.”

On Thursday, 9 December, High Court Justice Rooney ruled that Dr Bassalat could be released on bail after hours of arguments presented by his lawyers that highlighted his severe health situation as well as the fundamental injustices of the case.

They also emphasised the widespread respect and support that he has received in his local community and in the broader Palestinian community and Palestine solidarity movements.

This release on bail does not bring an end to the case for Dr Bassalat and his fellow defendants among the ‘Saoradh 9’, who continue to be subjected to internment by remand.

Despite the giant bail bond required, in excess of £20,000, and draconian conditions subjecting him to a curfew and signing on twice daily at a local police station, there has been a strong welcome for the release in Ireland and abroad.

“We congratulate him and his loved ones on his release and salute all of those who have worked tirelessly to secure his freedom,” said Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

“His release on bail is not only a step toward justice but necessary to protect his life and health. We also emphasise that it is important to remain just as vigilant on this case, as the unjust charges continue to be pursued against him for his work building solidarity between the Palestinian cause and the Irish struggle.

“We thank and salute all of those who have attended, tweeted and spoken out on this case; we must keep up the pressure for justice.”

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