Chicago, IL - More than 125 people gathered here for a candlelight vigil in support of over 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners currently on hunger strike in Israeli jails.
One of the hunger strikers is Saeed Mustafa Sbitan, a 19 year old from Beit Dukoo, a town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He is the nephew of Hatem Abudayyeh, a member of Chicago US Palestinian Community Network (www.uspcn.org). Sbitan is one of hundreds in solitary confinement, and his family knows nothing about his health because the Israelis will not allow him to be visited or make phone calls. Abudayyeh spoke of his nephew at the end of the vigil, and denounced the treatment of Palestinian activists as criminals.
The condition of the hunger strikers is rapidly deteriorating. While most joined the hunger strike one month ago, two of the prisoners, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, have passed their 70th day refusing food, putting them in critical condition and close to death. Abudayyeh urged the crowd to be prepared to mobilize for quick action as the situation develops.
Jess Sundin, of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR) also spoke at the protest. While speaking in support of the Palestinian hunger strikers, she decried efforts by the US government to make political prisoners of US solidarity activists. She invited everyone present to join Wednesday, May 16, protest in solidarity with Carlos Montes. The action will take place outside the Dirksen Federal Building, where a grand jury has been investigating Abudayyeh, Sundin, and 21 other anti-war and international solidarity activists. The case against Montes stems from this same investigation.
Noemi Teppang, of BAYAN-USA and the International League for Peoples Struggle, addressed the crowd, declaring support for the Palestinian political prisoners, and the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
Abudayyeh and Sundin both announced plans to join the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda march and rally on Sunday, May 20. Marchers with a 35-foot Palestinian flag will join the contingent of the CSFR.