Cancer-struck Palestinian prisoner dies in Israeli hospital

Palestinian authorities and prisoners groups have alleged deliberate medical negligence by Israel as the cause of death of Sami Abu Diak, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2015

November 26, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Sami Abu Diak had served 17 years of a life sentence when he died from cancer after being denied proper medical treatment and his final wish to die surrounded by his family.

Cancer-stricken Palestinian prisoner, Sami Abu Diak, died at an Israeli hospital on Tuesday morning, November 25, as per the Palestinian detainees’ committee. The Israeli prison service also confirmed in a statement that the 37-year old prisoner died at the Assaf Harofeh Israeli medical center following the rapid deterioration in his health condition in the days prior to his death.

Abu Diak, who hailed from the Sielet ath-Thaher town lying south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, was serving three life terms and an additional 30 years in prison, out of which he had served 17 years up till his death. He was accused and convicted by an Israeli court of murdering three Israeli citizens near Jenin during the second Intifada. Abu Diak was arrested on July 17, 2002.

The Palestinian detainees’ committee said in a statement, “Sami was subjected to a deliberate policy denying him the right to adequate medical care. Despite the serious decline in his health, and the constant complications, he was not provided with the urgently needed specialized care, and was only moved to a hospital when he neared death.”

The committee also said that its lawyers had filed several appeals in Israeli courts requesting them to release Abu Diak so that he may be able to receive specialized medical treatment in Palestine or abroad. However, all such requests were denied. Palestinian authorities had also tried to reach out to several European countries and the Red Cross, asking them to pressurize Israel for his release. 

In his last days, the Palestinian authority and Abu Diak’s family had asked Israel to release him, and allow him to breath his last surrounded by family, but their request was also denied. In a statement, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said, “Sami is the newest victim of Israel’s reprehensible policy of medical negligence against Palestinian prisoners.”

Abu Diak was first diagnosed with intestinal cancer in August 2015, following which he underwent surgery at the Israeli Soroka hospital in South Israel. Due to a misdiagnosis and further medical negligence, his condition worsened, and ultimately, he had to have 83 cms of his large intestine removed. He went through several more surgeries, facing various health complications including skin poisoning, pulmonary failure and renal failure.

The deceased prisoner underwent four surgeries just to remove the tumors from his intestine, during one of which, he slipped into a month long coma. The disease and the related complications had rendered him incapable of walking due to which he was forced to use a wheelchair to move around.

At least 222 Palestinian prisoners have died due to medical negligence by the Israeli authorities since 1967, with Abu Daik’s death being the most recent. More than a third of them have died in Israeli custody while being held in various prisons and detention centers across Israel.

In his last and final message from prison before his death, Abu Diak wrote, “To those with a living conscience, I am living my final hours and days, there is nothing I would like more than spending them near my mother; between my loved ones, I would love to utter my last breath in my mother’s arms; I do not wish to die cuffed and shackled, I do not want to die in front of a jailor who loves death, and feeds on our pain and suffering, Will my words even reach the ears and minds of leaders?! If I die far away from my mother, I will never forgive you…”