Roumieh hunger strike continues despite talks

BEIRUT: Direct talks to find common ground between the demands of Roumieh prison inmates and the prison administration took place over the weekend, but a hunger strike continues in the jail.

The meeting and mediation have apparently failed to stop inmates from protesting, and more than 120 inmates persisted in a hunger strike, in the latest round of demonstrations to hit the prison.

Last month, rage expressed by dozens of prisoners in Roumieh turned violent as a large-scale riot spread throughout the all blocs of the complex.

While Internal Security Forces reported only two inmates died as a result of the three-day riots, rights activists deny the reports and claim that four prisoners lost their lives and more than 60 inmates were wounded.

“The sit-in protest is ongoing at Riad al-Solh Square because none of our demands have been met,” said Nour Sabra, a son of a Roumieh inmate.

Last week, a group of family members of Roumieh inmates erected tents at Downtown Beirut’s Riad al-Solh Square in an attempt to attract more supporters to their cause.

In a telephone call with The Daily Star, Sabra said his father, Nasser Sabra, needed to be hospitalized and was in unstable condition.

“But the judge has for months refused to release him [Nasser Sabra] for receiving the proper treatments,” Sabra added.

However, the head of the Gendarmerie, Brigadier Salah Jebran, told The Daily Star that Sabra was diagnosed by a doctor and given the chance to talk to his family and inform them of his stable health.

“Sabra is doing fine, but some people are exaggerating matters and creating rumors about the prisoners in Roumieh,” Salah said in reference to the comments made by the families of the inmates.

For the inmates’ families, granting full amnesty to all prisoners in Roumieh has spearheaded a series of other demands, such as the speeding of judicial trials and the improvement of living standards in the country’s most notorious prison.

According to Salah, who was present at the bilateral meeting, the list of demands was transferred to the joint parliamentary Justice and Administration committee.

“The major demand handed to us by the prisoners was amnesty,” said Salah, adding that the joint committee is responsible for making a decision on the matter.

“There is an office designated for receiving inmate complaints at Roumieh, and all complaints filed to that office are delivered directly to the Interior Minister without delay,” Salah added.

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