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Fears for hunger-striking campaigner

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Being held in Northern Ireland under anti-terror legislation

Campaigners fear an Edinburgh doctor’s health is deteriorating after he went on hunger strike in a Northern Irish prison.

Dr Issam Hijjawi Bassalat, a Palestinian doctor living in Edinburgh, has been held under a particularly controversial provision of the UK’s draconian anti-terrorism legislation.

He is on remand having been arrested on 16 September as a result of what his lawyer calls entrapment during a police and MI5 operation against the New IRA.

Now Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) is demanding he be freed after undertaking a hunger strike which is being supported by around 50 other prisoners.

Bassalat was refused bail by Dungannon Magistrates Court with his bail application will now be heard by the High Court.

Bassalat is originally from the occupied West Bank and came to the UK in 1995 to work as a doctor before settling in Scotland in 2010. He now lives in Edinburgh and is a well-known member of the Scottish Palestinian community.

In 2017 he served as chair of the Association of Palestinian Communities in Scotland. The organisation was replaced in 2018 by by the Scottish Palestinian Society. Issam is a member of the new organisation but holds no office in it.

Chris Williamson of the Left Legal Fighting Fund said: "Dr Bassalat's hunger strike is an alarming symptom of something very wrong with the justice system in the north of Ireland, which appears to be beholden to the political goals of British intelligence services. Dr Bassalat should be immediately released from isolation."

SACC is calling on the prison authorities to allow Dr Bassalat to return immediately to Roe House and to ensure that his medical needs are met.

Richard Haley, chair of SACC, said: "I know Dr Bassalat as a colleague and ally in the political struggle for Palestinian rights. He’s very widely known and respected amongst people involved in that struggle in Scotland.

“I’m extremely concerned by the involvement of MI5 in the investigation that led to his arrest, by the apparent long-term infiltration by MI5 of political activity in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and by claims made in court that Issam and his co-defendants were entrapped.

“Besides their impact on Issam, these apparent abuses are likely to have a chilling effect on political activity within the Palestinian community and more widely amongst campaigners for Palestinian rights."