Middle East

Freed Palestinian prisoner recounts ordeal at Israeli ‘Guantanamo’

‘Negev prison is like Guantanamo. I saw prisoners killed and trampled on with boots, Moazzaz Abayat tells Anadolu

Qais Abu Samra  | 10.07.2024 - Update : 11.07.2024
Freed Palestinian prisoner recounts ordeal at Israeli ‘Guantanamo’

BETHLEHEM, Palestine

Laying on a hospital bed in Beit Jala in the southern West Bank, Moazzaz Khalil Abayat cannot believe he was released from the Negev prison in southern Israel.

Abayat, 37, from the West Bank city of Bethlehem, was released in a “shocking” health condition on Tuesday after a nine-month detention without charge under Israel’s notorious policy of administrative detention.

“Negev prison is like Guantanamo. I saw prisoners killed and trampled on with boots,” Abayat told Anadolu.

“Every night, we were severely beaten. Only last night, I wasn't hit,” he said.

Despite being surrounded by family and friends at the hospital, Abayat remains disoriented, believing he is still in detention.

“After my arrest, I was subjected to military interrogation and accused of being a murderer. I have never killed anyone,” he recalled.

“I suffered fractures in my head and hand, I was beaten on sensitive and injured areas. I was put in a black bag as if I was dead.”

Abayat said far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir participated in torture at Ofer military prison, west of Ramallah.

“Prisoners are dying in jails. This is an appeal to everyone to take action to save them,” he said.

Abayat's speech was occasionally incoherent, indicating he still experiences severe psychological distress as if he were still imprisoned.

Family in shock

Abayat's father, Khalil, was shocked by the health condition of his son.

“The family is in great shock. Moazzaz seems like a completely different person,” he told Anadolu.

“My son was a bodybuilder, worked in a butcher shop, was sociable, and a breadwinner of five. Today, he has almost lost his memory, is nearly paralyzed, thin, unable to walk, and does not recognize many family members,” Khalil added.

He noted that Moazzaz's weight dropped from around 110 kilograms to barely 50 kilograms.

“Moazzaz was beaten throughout his detention, from the moment he was arrested until his release.”

Brutally assaulted

Dr. Nizar Qumsiyeh, the medical director of the hospital, said, Abayat has various bruises and is in a severe psychological state.

“We have begun medical tests and are awaiting the results, but it is clear he believes he is still in prison and surrounded by jailers,” Qumsiyeh added.

“He needs further examination and follow-up to determine his dietary needs to regain his physical health and then begin potentially long-term psychological treatment.”

According to the Palestinian Prisoner Society, Abayat was brutally beaten during his arrest in late October 2023.

“He was subjected to a series of vicious assaults, including torture and starvation,” it said. “His health condition after his release today serves as a testament to what he endured during his detention.”

Abayat was previously detained twice by Israeli forces. He did not suffer any health problems before his latest arrest.

At least 3,380 Palestinians, including women and children, are currently held without charge in Israeli prisons, according to Palestinian figures.

Israel, flouting a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire, has faced international condemnation amid its continued brutal offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7, 2023 attack by Palestinian group Hamas.

Nearly 38,300 Palestinians have since been killed, mostly women and children, and over 88,200 others injured, according to local health authorities.

Nine months into the Israeli war, vast tracts of Gaza lie in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water, and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, whose latest ruling ordered it to immediately halt its military operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on May 6.

*Writing by Mohammad Sio in Istanbul

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