- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian prisoner agreed to end his 66-day hunger strike to protest his imprisonment without charge after reaching a deal with Israel that will free him in April, the Israeli Justice Ministry said Tuesday.

The agreement ended a tense standoff that left 33-year-old Khader Adnan clinging to life and drew international attention to a controversial Israeli policy of holding suspected Palestinian militants without charge. The hunger strike also turned Mr. Adnan, a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group, into a hero for Palestinians.

Under the deal struck with military prosecutors, Mr. Adnan agreed to resume eating immediately, the Justice Ministry said.

Outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, some two dozen demonstrators waved the Palestinian flag. “Khader is coming home!” they chanted.

Mr. Adnan was a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, a group that has killed dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks. It is not known whether he participated in violent acts.

The statement said that if “no new additional substantial evidence” emerges against Mr. Adnan, he will be released on April 17.

That means his four-month detention order will be counted from the day of his arrest, not the day it was issued several weeks later. The deal also suggests that military prosecutors will not seek extensions, which often can be used to prolongue administrative detentions.

The Justice Ministry said Mr. Adnan, who remains hospitalized, accepted the deal through his attorney.

The deal was swiftly denounced by Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

“It was a wrong decision to release the Jihad activist, but it is our duty to respect and honor every Supreme Court decision, even when we don’t agree with it,” he said.

Mr. Adnan’s lawyers said the deal would set a precedent for other Palestinian prisoners — that they too, could force Israel to listen to their demands.

Sheikh Khader is an example for Palestinians,” said one of his lawyers, Mahmoud Hassan. “He showed that their demands can be met.”

Tuesday’s compromise was announced shortly before the Israeli Supreme Court was to hold an emergency hearing on Mr. Adnan’s appeal. The court moved the hearing up by two days over concerns about Mr. Adnan’s health. He has been held in an Israeli hospital for several weeks because of his condition.

Mr. Adnan’s supporters and physicians said in recent days that he couldn’t survive much longer on his hunger strike. Doctors who treated him said he had lost some 60 pounds, his hair was falling out, his skin had turned yellow and he was in danger of a heart attack.

Mr. Adnan’s wife, Randa, was ecstatic over the news.

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