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Palestinian hunger striker back in coma

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A Palestinian on a two-month hunger strike was in a medically induced coma today after Israel’s top court suspended his detention without trial, a hospital official said.

Israel’s High Court late yesterday temporarily ended Mohammed Allan’s administrative detention, but ordered him to remain in hospital pending a final decision on his case, which has sparked intense debate among both Israelis and Palestinians.

Doctors placed the 31-year-old in the coma due to his deteriorating condition yesterday before the court ruling, a hospital spokeswoman said, meaning he would not be aware of the decision.

He was said to be suffering brain damage, apparently due to a vitamin deficiency caused by his hunger strike. It was unclear whether the damage was permanent.

Allan had on Friday slipped into a coma, prompting doctors to give him fluids, vitamins and minerals by intravenous drip and to place him on a respirator.

His condition had improved, and by Tuesday he was conscious and taken off the respirator. He had pledged to resume his hunger strike and even stop ingesting water if his case was not resolved, Palestinian activists supporting his cause said.

Islamic Jihad describes Allan, a lawyer from the West Bank, as a member of the Palestinian militant movement, as does Israel.

Allan has been held since November in what Israel calls administrative detention, which allows for internment without charge for six-month periods that can be renewed indefinitely.

Israel uses administrative detention to hold Palestinians deemed to be security risks, while not divulging what the authorities view as sensitive intelligence.

The court decision suspending his detention was harshly criticised by right-wing politicians who considered Allan’s release a capitulation to “terror”.

Far-right Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party said the court should have ordered doctors to force-feed Allan, with a law passed in July allowing for the practice under certain circumstances.

But he also criticised Israel’s “widespread” employment of administrative detention, saying it should be confined only to cases of “ticking bombs”.

Around 340 Palestinians are now held in administrative detention, and detainees have regularly gone on hunger strike to protest.

Jewish extremists have also been held under the measure, though in far fewer cases.

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