Dirar Abusisi, who just marked the second anniversary of his kidnapping by Israeli and Ukrainian intelligence agents, is literally wasting away in an Israeli prison. He was originally apprehended by Israel because its intelligence service thought he knew the whereabouts of then hostage, Gilad Shalit. When Israel realized it had been hoaxed by Hamas into arresting him and that he had no idea where Shalit was, Israel concocted a story that he was the movement’s chief rocket engineer and founder of a purported Gaza version of West Point.
He has refused the State’s offer of a nine-year jail sentence in return for admitting guilt and is currently in solitary confinement. The prosecution has refused to hand over to the defense key documents it has which are necessary to prepare for trial. As a result, Tal Linoy, has filed a brief with the Supreme Court commanding the State to provide the materials. So far, it has done nothing but stall and the Court hasn’t yet ruled.
Abusisi suffered a heart attack in 2009 and faces very severe medical conditions which have gone largely untreated by Israeli prison authorities. They include a painful bout of kidney stones accompanied by high blood pressure and severe back pain. He has anemia due to iron deficiency, biliary colic (gallstones), bouts of diarrhea, and has lost nearly one-third of his body weight (55 pounds) while in detention. You can compare how he looked before detention and after two years imprisoned in these two photos. He is allowed some meetings with his lawyer and rare visits with his family.
The detainee’s lawyer arranged for a medical review which is being released here for the first time (Hebrew). In it, Dr. Dov Gavish (full Hebrew CV), director of the department of internal medicine at Wolfson Hospital in Holon, noted very serious deficiencies in the victim’s medical care. Among other things, he noted that a cardiologist recommended in 2011 that Abusisi receive an echocardiogram and stress test, none of which was ever carried out. Dr. Gavish said that:
The refusal to carry out such basic preventive measures, despite the patient’s complaint of chest pain and history of heart disease, characterizes unacceptable and deficient medical treatment that falls short of accepted medical standards.
Among the “sophisticated” means of treating him the prison doctors advised were taking vitamins and aspirin. Gavish says that when his weight loss first occurred it was incumbent on the authorities to determine the cause of the condition and treat it aggressively, which they did not.
Abusisi was finally sent to a gastroenterologist only in February 2012 (last month, after two years in prison). The doctor, after examining him, delayed any further treatment for several months while awaiting tests that would determine whether the patient was allergic to gluten or lactose intolerant. Again, Dr. Gavish argues that this treatment is incompatible with medical norms and unacceptable given the seriousness of the symptoms. He should’ve been taken for a gastro-and colonoscopy and full-body scan and given a nutritional evaluation.
Finally, the doctor notes that three separate prison medical officials examined Abusisi and found his detention did not endanger his life and that he was medically fit to endure solitary confinement. One doctor even stated erroneously that the prisoner had no pre-existing medical conditions. Two doctors found that Abusisi’s general medical condition was satisfactory. Gavish refutes this claim saying it has no basis. He argues that the patient’s precise medical condition is not known because of the refusal of the authorities to conduct the proper medical tests to determine it. In fact, the results of such tests might very well indicate he should be held neither in solitary confinement or in prison detention at all (given that this could mortally endanger his health).
Finally, the defense’s consulting medical specialist finds that Abusisi’s overall medical treatment betrays:
The lack of systematic attention to the patient’s medical complaints and symptoms. Such medical treatment is unacceptable, deficient, and falls short of accepted medical standards.
In the aftermath of the Shalit prisoner exchange, in which 1,000 Palestinian detainees were freed, Abusisi seems to have become an orphan. He is non-political and as such, has no movement, either Hamas or Fatah that will vouch for him. Without champions or sponsors Israel seems prepared for him to rot away in jail. It offers him two choices: either to confess to crimes he didn’t commit and thereby relieve the intelligence services of the black eye they deserve for kidnapping an innocent man…or dying, whichever comes first.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.