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Family Of Released Prisoner Accuses Israel Of Causing Him Incurable Illness

06 January 2014

By Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank

The Family of Naim Shawamreh, a 45-year-old Palestinian prisoner released by Israel on Tuesday has accused the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) of having deliberately injected him with a chemical substance that caused him an incurable illness.

The illness is known medically as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or (ALS). It is also known as Lou Gerig's Disease.

According to medical dictionaries, ALS is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles (muscle action we are able to control, such as those in the arms, legs, and face).

Early symptoms include fasciculation, cramps, tight and stiff muscles (spasticity), muscle weakness affecting an arm or a leg, slurred and nasal speech, or difficulty chewing or swallowing. These general complaints then develop into more obvious muscle weakness and atrophy, spreading to other parts of the body as the disease progresses.

It is obvious that many of these symptoms appeared rather conspicuously on Naim who arrived at his home in an ambulance. He could hardly verbally communicate with well-wishers or the media.

Journalists were politely asked by Naim's family to refrain from "asking too many questions" in light of his health condition.

A strongly slurred speech and an inability to hold a microphone with his hands were noticed.

They wanted to kill him

Nabil, Naim's younger brother, says Naim told him the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) deliberately injected him with a chemical substance that caused the ALS disease to afflict his body.

"He told me they (the Prison's doctors) gave him a pill seven months ago which caused several symptoms to appear on him including a severe swelling of the face, severe headache and slurred speech.

"They simply wanted to kill him."

Nabil said the Israeli Prison Service admitted that that the "pill" was given to him by mistake.

Nabil, who didn't seem fully aware of his brother's medical condition, said he hoped Naim would be able to receive proper medical care abroad and be cured.

The Governor of Hebron who came to wish him well promised his family that every effort would be made to give him the best possible medical treatment.

Nabil was reminded of the gravity and seriousness of the charges he was voicing. He argued that his brother was in nearly perfect physical condition and that he only began to experience the illness soon after he was given "the pill."

The Israeli response

This correspondent contacted Sivan Wayzman, a spokeswoman for the IPS who categorically denied the accusations.

Wayzman, who expressed her astonishment at the charges, emailed the following response.

"The Israel Prison Service declines all allegations of any intended actions which allegedly caused the prisoner's disease. It is a well-known fact that there is little understanding of the causes of ALS disease. Nonetheless, 10 percent of the cases have to do with genetic disorders.

Since the prisoner has been diagnosed as suffering from it, he has been examined and treated by specialists who have laid out the ways in which he must be treated the IPS has followed accordingly.

The court, who has discussed the prisoner's petition, concluded that the treatment he is receiving is professional and adjusted to his needs."

Ahmed Ibrahim is a medical doctor from the Hebron region specialized in muscular flaccidity. He says that it is not medically known that a given chemical or biological agent can cause the sudden occurrence of ALS.

However, he noticed that Israel was highly advanced in the production of chemical and biological agents that can kill people either immediately or slowly.

He cited the Khalid Mishaal case in 1997, when two Mossad agents carrying fake Canadian passports tried to assassinate the Islamist Palestinian leader by smacking a device to Mishaal's left ear that transmitted a fast-acting poison.

The two Mossad agents were captured and Israel was forced to hand over to the Jordanians the antidote that saved Mishaal's life.

However, despite his progressive disability and deteriorating health (it is unclear if he knows his condition is incurable), Naim maintained a broad smile as he thanked everyone who came to congratulate him.

His mother, although relieved that her son is finally free, is worried that he may not live long due to his incurable illness.

"I am really having a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am happy that he is out of jail. On the other hand, I am extremely worried about his illness and the possibility that he won't recover. I implore God to cure him."

Khalid Amayreh is an American-educated journalist living in the Hebron region of the West Bank.



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