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From the Brighton Group - Said Lataba – 31 Years in Prison,

Fiona | 01.11.2008 20:02 | Campaign against Carmel-Agrexco | Anti-militarism | Palestine | South Coast | World

This is part of a series of blogs from delegation of eight people from Brighton who arrived in the Tubas region of occupied Palestine last week. The delegation is part of the project by the Brighton-Tubas Friendship and Solidarity Group. The group's aims are to highlight Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the region, raise awareness about life under occupation and create practical solidarity links between grassroots organisations in Brighton and Tubas region.

This is an excerpt from Fiona's blog

On Thursday 23rd of October we travelled to Nablus to meet a prisoner Said Lataba who had spent 31 years in prison, the longest time any Palestinian had spent imprisoned to date. He was released just last month at the beginning of his 32nd year in prison. He welcomed us into his home as he prepared for his wedding celebrations to take place the following day. He told us that his wife to be is also an ex prisoner. We wished him happiness in his marriage and in life after being released to which he replied 'I will not be truly happy until all of Palestine is free from occupation' At aged 57 years he has spent almost all his adult life in prison. Before his arrest he worked as a delivery driver carrying oranges to shops until 29th July 1977 at aged 26, when IDF soldiers came to his house and took him telling his mother 'you will never see your son again'. He was taken to jail and told he would serve his whole life without release. We asked him the charge, he told us ‘for being against the occupation'. Israeli's often just arrest and intern Palestinians without trial, and almost all of the time without explanation or justification. We asked him about life in prison and what treatment and conditions he had to endure. He told us that it was impossible for him to express his feelings of prison life as there is too much to say. He speaks of the old life which he says is representative of the Palestinian life. Said was taken to Ramallah jail after being taken by the IDF. Initially he was questioned and asked to confess to many things he did not do. He was given no food or water then taken to the jail, placed into a small cell in isolation under hard conditions with only a blanket on a hard floor to sleep on. When questioned, he was hung from his arms, heavy pressure applied to his whole body and tortured constantly for three days. He still has many scars from the beatings he received to his torso, arms and legs. He told us he was tortured in every way. He said 'this is not unusual, life in prison is rich with bad conditions, all prisoners are treated very badly' he said and explained that life and torture for every prisoner is the same and repeated that conditions were hard, very hard and prison food very poor. Said told us he was then transferred to Ascolan prison (Shegma in Hebrew) and on many occasions prisoners went on hunger strikes to try to have conditions improved. The first was for 33 days in 1980 which resulted in them getting a bed instead of the floor to sleep on. They did not get mattresses, but larger blankets were provided. The second strike in 1984 lasted longer and they managed to get radio but only Hebrew stations were allowed. Again in 1984 they had a strike for the right to wear civilian clothing. The fourth strike in 1985 was to get a T.V. but again they could only access to Israeli channels was allowed. It was five years before this changed. There were many more strikes to get air conditioning, and stoves and other basic items. In 2004 they had to strike to get better food. After twenty five years they managed to get books and Al Quds university magazine. He went on to say that if they needed anything it took many strikes to get it, explaining that the Israeli’s want to kill human beings not just take the land. They tried hard to rebuild the human being, their culture with their strength. ‘It is this strength of character the Israeli’s wished to break with the heart and soul of Palestine’. He spoke with great strength about the conditions they endured daily and spoke of the many friendships he made in prison. We asked him if he was allowed regular visits from friends and family and he replied that he was initially allowed one visit per month and in 1981 this was increased to two per month after the strikes. Between 2000 and 2008 he had only one visit in this period which only his mother was allowed, whereas before his sister and brother were allowed to visit. He told us that 'Israeli's have occupied Palestine for 45 years, and of the 4 million Palestinian population, 11,000 are still held in Israeli prisons'. It was hard for us to understand after all he was put through how he could be so peaceful in mind and manner. He told us that all he wants is to carry a message of peace and humanity. He wanted the world to be told the truth about these conditions and injustices. Now that he is outside he will carry the message of all prisoners and work until all prisoners are free. They just want to live an ok life. He wants to send a message of peace to the world on behalf of the Palestinian people, and says all they want is to be free.