Orange County doctor jailed in Israel goes on hunger strike

The Associated Press
Saturday May 11, 2002

LOS ANGELES — An Orange County doctor jailed in Israel on suspicion of terrorism began a hunger strike Friday to protest his detention without formal charges, his brother said. 

Riad Abdelkarim, 34, is being held at the Petach Tikva Detention Center outside Tel Aviv. He was detained Sunday following a 10-day trip to assess medical needs in the Palestinian territories for the Los Angeles-based International Medical Corps. 

His brother, Basim Abdelkarim, said he learned of the hunger strike from Israeli human rights lawyer Leah Tsemel. 

“It’s to protest his detention,” he said, adding he does not know if the jailed doctor is consuming liquid. He said a candlelight vigil is planned for Saturday outside City Hall in Orange, where Abdelkarim lives with his wife and four children. 

Relatives and friends of Abdelkarim have expressed frustration over his arrest. 

“They have made all these accusations. It’s outrageous that they can get away with it,” his brother said. “If they had any evidence they would have charged him.” 

David Douek, a spokesman for the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, has said officials in Israel won’t reveal the evidence against Abdelkarim because of security concerns. 

A U.S. State Department memo released this week said a judge issued a ruling Monday ordering that Abdelkarim be held for eight days on suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization and attempting to fund terrorist organizations.” 

Abdelkarim, born in California to Palestinian parents, is a frequent commentator on Middle East issues who has taken positions against Arab extremism and Israeli army abuses. He was questioned by the FBI after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and wrote an opinion piece in which he condemned being singled out because of his ethnicity and political beliefs.