Amnesty International urges Israel to return body of ailing Palestinian who died in custody

By Thomson Reuters Apr 8, 2024 | 3:56 PM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Amnesty International on Monday said Israel must release the body of Palestinian Walid Daqqa, who died a day earlier in Israeli custody after a long battle with cancer.

“It is heart-wrenching that Walid Daqqah has died in Israeli custody despite the many calls for his urgent release on humanitarian grounds following his 2022 diagnosis with bone marrow cancer and the fact that he had already completed his original sentence,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, senior director at Amnesty International.

“Israeli authorities must now return Walid Daqqah’s body to his family without delay so that they could give him a peaceful and dignified burial and allow them to mourn his death without intimidation,” Guevara-Rosas added.

A spokesperson for the Israel Prison Service (IPS) did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The IPS has previously said that all prisoners in its custody are detained “according to the provisions of the law”.

An Israeli court sentenced Daqqa to life imprisonment in 1987 after convicting him of leading a group that abducted and killed Israeli soldier Moshe Tamam, an accusation Daqqa denied, Amnesty said. His conviction was based on British emergency regulations, which require a lower standard of proof than Israeli criminal law, the rights group said.

The 62-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel is survived by his wife, Sanaa Salameh, and 4-year-old daughter Milad, who was conceived using Daqqa’s smuggled sperm after Israeli authorities denied him conjugal visits, Salameh has said.

Daqqa was due to be released last year after completing a 37-year sentence but a court ruling extended his jail term by two more years over accusations he provided mobile phones to other prisoners, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said.

It said Daqqa was the 14th Palestinian political prisoner to die in Israeli custody over the past six months as a result of Israeli practices that include torture and medical neglect.

After news emerged of Daqqa’s death on Sunday, Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir lamented on social media that he had not faced the death penalty. On Monday, Ben-Gvir praised police for dismantling a mourning tent set up in Daqqa’s hometown.

(Reporting by Henriette Chacar; Editing by Deepa Babington)