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Israel to free Palestinian hunger striker

/ Source: staff and news service reports

A Palestinian prisoner on Tuesday agreed to end his 66-day hunger strike after reaching a deal with Israel that will free him in April, the Israeli Justice Ministry said.

The agreement ended a tense standoff that had drawn attention to a controversial Israeli policy of holding suspected Palestinian militants without charge.

Under the deal, Khader Adnan, a 33-year-old member of the Islamic Jihad militant group, agreed to resume eating immediately, the Justice Ministry said.

The statement said that if "no new additional substantial evidence" emerges against Adnan, he will be released on April 17, when a current, four-month detention order is to expire. It said that Adnan had accepted the deal through his attorney.

Adnan's supporters had expressed concern in recent days that he might not survive much longer. Doctors who have treated him say he has lost some 60 pounds, his hair was falling out and that he barely had strength to speak.

Tuesday's compromise was announced shortly before the Israeli Supreme Court was to hold an emergency hearing on Adnan's appeal. The court moved the hearing up by two days in light of the concerns for Adnan's health. He has been held in an Israeli hospital for several weeks because of his condition.

Wife ecstatic
Adnan's wife, Randa, was ecstatic over the news.

"This is of course a victory," she said in a telephone interview. "The Israelis had no proof and that's why they've agreed to these four months," she said. She laughed, and supporters could be heard screaming with joy in the background.

"He's shown by his steadfastness that we can be victorious," she said.

that the hunger strike had transformed the "once obscure, bearded baker" into a "Palestinian hero."

It said that Islamic Jihad had threatened some kind of revenge if he died.

Adnan was arrested at his West Bank home on Dec. 17 and launched his hunger strike the following day.

He said he was protesting Israel's policy of "administrative detentions," in which it holds suspected Palestinian militants for months, and even years, at a time without charge.

Adnan also claimed to have been beaten and humiliated in prison.

Threat to regional security?
Israel has said Adnan was suspected of acts that "threaten regional security" without elaborating. It has not responded to the abuse allegations.

Adnan was a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, a group that has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks.

It is not known whether he participated in violent attacks.

Israel has defended the policy of administrative detentions as a necessary tool to stop militant activity. It says the measure is needed to protect its network of Palestinian informants.

Adnan's protest was the longest hunger strike ever by a Palestinian prisoner, and had caused some unease in Israel.

The European Union and United Nations had expressed concern over the case and urged Israel to promptly give Adnan a trial.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, issued a statement Saturday saying she was following Adnan's case with "great concern."

She reiterated "the EU's long-standing concern about the extensive use by Israel of administrative detention without formal charge."