Attorney Raslan Mahajna of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) managed to meet with detainee Mahmoud al-‘Arda, one of the Palestinian political prisoners who managed to escape from Gilboa’ Israeli prison, before he was captured by the Israeli army, who informed him of horrific details of torture and abuse, including continuous interrogation and deprivation of sleep and food.

The lawyer stated that Mahmoud has been under continuous interrogation, torture, and abuse, including denying him the right to sleep or eat.

Mahmoud told the lawyer that, since the day of his capture more than five days ago, he remained deprived of even seeing the sunshine, and could barely sleep for a couple of hours at the time, due to continuous interrogation, torture, and bad conditions in the cell.

Al-‘Arda stated that he was the one responsible for the escape, including the planning which started in December 2020, and added that they did not receive any help from anyone in the prison or on the outside.

“We all walked together until we reached an-Na’ura village, and entered a mosque to rest before we decided to leave in various directions, each group only containing two of us, he said, “We tried to enter the West Bank but could not do so due to extensive Israeli military presence. Our capture was merely accidental, nobody informed on us, and after our capture, we were interrogated for more than seven hours, each day.”

Mahajna stated that, during his five days on the run, Mahmoud was unable to even get some water to drink, and that he, for the first time since he was first taken prisoner 22 years ago, was able to eat cactus from a field, and how much this meant to him.

Zakariya Zobeidi

He added that the Israeli soldiers and the police who were searching for him and the other escaped detainees came close to capturing them all, and eventually managed to locate him and Zakariyya Zobeidi when the police started looking under a truck during a routine inspection.

During his meeting with the lawyer, Mahmoud said that he rejects all charges against him, and remains silent despite the torture and the solitary confinement.

The lawyer quoted Mahmoud stating; “After we managed to escape, Zakariyya and I remained together, and we were unable to even find some water to drink for five days, and for the first time since I was taken prisoner 22 years ago, I was able to eat cactus from a field.”

Mahmoud also stated that he was repeatedly assaulted by the Israeli soldiers who located them, and added that he was stripped of all his clothes for several hours before he was sent to the al-Jalama interrogation facility where he was subject to intense interrogation, including torture, sleep deprivation, and was not given food or water for several days.

He added that Israeli soldiers of the Prison Service also repeatedly assaulted and beaten Zakariya Zobeidi before he was later moved to a hospital.

Al-‘Arda also said that he and the other escaped detainees tried their best not to enter Palestinian cities in historic Palestine to avoid giving Israel the opportunity to punish the Palestinians or harm them.

It is worth mentioning that the lawyer visited with Mahmoud in a room where they were separated by a fortified glass barrier, and said that the detainee was exhausted, and in pain, due to the constant interrogation and torture he was subjected to.

One of the last things Mahmoud told his lawyer before the meeting was concluded was that the short period he was free after escaping from prison was the first time in his life that he was able to walk around and see historic Palestine, and added that he intends to write about the experience when possible.

Mahajna added that Mahmoud asked him whether their escape reached the media and its news spread around the world, and when he confirmed these facts to him, the detainee expressed satisfaction that their cause became international, and raised awareness on the hardships and the suffering of the detainees, and thanked everyone around the world for their solidarity.

Mahmoud also told the lawyer that he was touched and happy to see the large crowds of Palestinians who gathered in front of the court in Nazareth and chanted for him, and thanked everybody for their solidarity.

It is worth mentioning that the International Red Cross stated that it is conducting all needed efforts to be able to visit with the captured detainees.

Yahia Maswada, the spokesperson of the International Red Cross in Palestine, said the Red Cross understands the anxiety and the worry of the families of the recaptured detainees, and that it is doing all whatever it can to visit with the four detainees, including Zakariyya Zobeidi, especially amidst news about his injuries and torture.

Maswada added that Israel hasn’t yet allowed anybody, including lawyers, to visit with Zobeidi, and affirmed that international Humanitarian Law forbids inhumane treatment against the detainees, including torture.