Interrogation of Palestinian detainees amounts to torture: Israeli report

The report collected the witness accounts of 116 Palestinians detained at an interrogation centre in 2013 and 2014

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man on 15 February 2016 at the Amari Palestinian refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Ramallah

Palestinians held in a detention facility run by Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency are subject to mistreatment amounting to torture, a report based on testimonies of more than 100 ex-prisoners has concluded.

The joint report by two Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and HaMoked has documented affidavits and testimonies of dozens of Palestinians interrogated by the Israeli security agency.

The report “Backed by the System: Abuse and Torture at the Shikma Interrogation Facility”, released on Wednesday, said that the mistreatment suffered by Palestinians at Shikma detention centre amounted to torture.

Testimonies were collected from 116 Palestinians detained at Shikma, which is located in Ashkelon, southern Israel from August 2013 until March 2014. The facility is controlled by the internal Shin Bet intelligence agency.

Torture was banned by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999, but a HaMoked lawyer said that the report was evidence that the interrogators had violated the court’s ruling.

The detainees were subjected to sleep deprivation, psychological torture, stress positions, and were exposed to extreme heat or cold, the report said. In some cases, Israeli interrogators also verbally abused the family members of the detainees. Sometimes they were denied access to a shower for days or weeks, spat on, and were provided small amounts of substandard food.

“Conditions at the Shikma facility are an inherent part of interrogations there: they serve to weaken both mind and body, complementing the actual interrogation of detainees in the interrogation room,” the report said. “The combination of conditions both in and outside the interrogation room constitutes abuse and inhuman, degrading treatment, at times even amounting to torture.”

According to the report, almost all of the detainees were subjected to these measures. One third were beaten or abused during the course of their arrest, and at least 14 had been tortured under interrogation by the Palestinian Authority shortly before being arrested by Israel.

Mazen Abu Arish, 22, had spent 20 days in solitary confinement.

“Psychologically, being alone is like living in a toilet,” he said. “If something happens to you, no one will notice. You could die and be discovered days later. You’re dumped in a corner and forgotten.”

The report also highlighted the complicit nature of other security branches and bodies such as the Israeli prison system, which not only turn a blind eye to these practices but also facilitate conditions to accommodate the abuse – thus being responsible for the different aspects of “cruel, inhuman, degrading and abusive treatment” which Palestinians are subjected to at Shikma.

“The IPS creates prison conditions to match the interrogation plan designed to break a detainee’s spirit,” the report stated.

“Soldiers and police officers abuse detainees while transporting them to the ISA… [while] military judges almost automatically sign off on motions for remand in custody and effectively sanction the continued abuse and inhuman conditions.”

In a statement, the Shin said it would not comment on the report, calling it “twisted”.

It said interrogations are implemented according to law in order to prevent attacks and “activities that damage the security of the country”.

(Source / 24.02.2016)

Why this election of Iran’s Assembly of Experts is more important than ever

Former Iranian President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (C) speaks during Iran’s Assembly of Experts’ biannual meeting in Tehran, March 8, 2011

The elections for Iran’s Assembly of Experts will coincide with the Feb. 26 parliamentary elections. Considering the age of the current supreme leader, this contest may determine the fate of the country for the foreseeable future.

The 88 members of the Assembly of Experts are constitutionally tasked with choosing the next supreme leader after 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dies or becomes unable to perform his duties. Despite a prostate surgery in September 2014, Khamenei appears to be healthy and energetic for his age. He continues to attend numerous functions throughout the country, giving long speeches with minimal notes.

The assembly members serve eight-year terms. Therefore, there is a chance the next Assembly of Experts will be asked for the second time in the body’s three decades of existence to choose the next and third supreme leader of Iran.

One list for the Assembly of Experts has been put together under the name of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani with the slogan “People’s Experts.” Though Rafsanjani said he does not have an official electoral list, he was asked to head this 16-person list that includes a number of like-minded allies, such as President Hassan Rouhani, former Intelligence Minister Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi and Rouhani’s Intelligence Minister Seyed Mahmoud Alavi.

Many observers are paying particular attention to the contentious disqualification of Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

There were reports that before his disqualification, Hassan Khomeini, the popular grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was to have been included on Rafsanjani’s list. Despite his disqualification, Rafsanjani’s supporters continue to use campaign posters featuring Rafsanjani, Khamenei, Rouhani and the young Hassan Khomeini praying together.

The conservatives have also presented their own list. Two of the most conservative clerical bodies in Iran, the Combatant Clergy Association and the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom, have each presented lists of candidates they support. There is some overlap between the lists, as temporary Friday Prayer leader Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani appears on both as well as on Rafsanjani’s list. Rouhani is also included in the Combatant Clergy Association’s List.

Both the Combatant Clergy and Society of Seminary Teachers are promoting as candidates some of the more hard-line clerics in Iran, including Chairman of the Guardian Council Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, spiritual leader of the hard-line Endurance Front Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah Yazdi and Society of Seminary Teachers Secretary Mohammad Yazdi, who currently heads the Assembly of Experts.

Another conservative list, called the “List of Principlist Trustees of the Revolution,” includes Jannati, Yazdi, Mesbah Yazdi and Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, the secretary-general of the Combatant Clergy Association.

A total of 16 female candidates registered for the Assembly of Experts elections. Their qualifications were not approved by the Guardian Council. The constitution does not forbid women from becoming members. However, the requirement that a member must have expertise in Islamic law has created obstacles for female candidates. When it was assembled in 1979 to ratify the constitution, Monireh Gorji became the only female to become a member of the Assembly of Experts. The assembly has existed in its present form since 1983.

While these overlapping lists may seem confusing, the key battle to watch in these elections is the one between Rafsanjani and the above-mentioned group of hard-line clerics. As Khomeini’s closest adviser, Rafsanjani played a key role in Khamenei’s ascension to the leadership. Rafsanjani today does not hold the power he did in 1989, but it is no secret that he would like regain it. Rafsanjani headed the Assembly of Experts from September 2007 until March 2011, and lost his bid for the leadership in March 2015. Many believe that Rafsanjani’s decision to not condemn the Green Movement leaders and his public displeasure with some hard-line policies cost him his political clout. If hard-liners dominate the next assembly, this will severely weaken Rafsanjani’s position.

Khamenei has not spoken publicly about what person he would like to replace him. Despite Rafsanjani’s determination to shape the future of the country by influencing the selection of the next supreme leader, it is very likely that other powerful institutions will want a say as well. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose duty it is to protect the Islamic Revolution, will likely exert its influence to keep like-minded allies within the assembly and prevent the leadership of someone they view as soft toward enemy countries.

(Source / 24.02.2016)

30 female prisoners suffer difficult detention conditions

RAMALLAH, (PIC)–  30 Palestinian female prisoners, including nine minors, suffer from overcrowding in HaSharon prison as their numbers have notably increased. Representative of female prisoners Lina Jarbouni said that some of them are forced to sleep on the floor due to the lack of beds in the prison. She pointed out that a number of the female prisoners are in acute need for medical care as they suffer gunshot injuries. Yasmin Zaru, from al-Khalil, is the last female prisoner to be transferred to the prison, she said. Yasmin’s health situation is very difficult and needs an urgent medical treatment after being shot during her arrest. As a whole, 61 Palestinian female prisoners are held in Israeli jails and detention centers.

(Source / 24.02.2016)

Palestinian mother put under house arrest as part of son’s sentencing

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian officials on Wednesday visited a woman in occupied East Jerusalem who the Israeli authorities have sentenced to house arrest along with her 16-year-old son ahead of his court hearing next month.The Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs said in a statement that its head, Issa Qaraqe, along with Ramallah Governor Laila Ghannam, had visited the mother of 16-year-old Melad Mousa Najeeb.The statement said that in an unprecedented move the Israeli authorities have sentenced the woman to house arrest along with her son ahead of his court hearing on March 7. It did not say what charges he is facing.Qaraqe condemned her house arrest as a form of “collective punishment,” and said the sentencing the mother was tantamount to “turning parents into jailers.”The statement said that due to her sentencing, Najeeb’s mother had been unable go to work or seek medical care.Qaraqe said that Israeli forces have put at least 300 Palestinian minors under house arrest over the last three years, including 60 in 2015.Ghannam said: “Israel is committing the worst crimes ever against Palestinian children including killing, detaining them, and depriving them of their rights and childhood.”The two officials urged the international community to protect Palestinian children and condemn Israeli violations against minors.

(Source / 24.02.2016)

Ateret Cohanim to seize 2 Palestinian buildings

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Ateret Cohanim settlement organization delivered a judicial ruling to the Palestinian al-Rajabi family to evacuate their homes in Silwan town, in Occupied Jerusalem, at the pretext it was owned by Jews. The Wadi Hilweh Information Center said in a statement the Ateret Cohanim organization ordered the al-Rajabi family to give up a land where two six-storey buildings of the family’s own were built. The organization said the family has to respond to the lawsuit, which claimed the land had been owned to three Yemenite Jews before 1948, within 30 days.    Wadi Hilweh Information Center said the targeted land makes part of the intent of Ateret Cohanim to confiscate nearly five dunums and 200 square meters under the pretext of being owned by the Jews of Yemen since 1881.  The settlement organization claimed that the Israeli Supreme Court approved the ownership of settlers from Yemen to lands in Batn Al-Hawa. Wadi Hilweh Center added that the lands at risk of being confiscated currently have 30 to 35 residential apartments that are homes to 80 Palestinian families comprising nearly 436 individuals in total. All the residents have been living in the neighborhood since the 1960’s after they bought the lands and property from the previous owners using official documents.

(Source / 24.02.2016)

PA ambassador to Turkey says Fatah, Hamas to meet in Doha next month

Senior Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and PA President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Authority Ambassador to Turkey Fa’ed Mustafa said Hamas and Fatah officials would meet in Qatar early next month with a view to kick-starting reconciliation efforts, theAnadolu Agency reported yesterday.

Mustafa said: “Its first aim will be to establish a unity government to include representatives of all [Palestinian factions], including Hamas and Fatah.”

“The meeting’s second aim is laying down a timeline for holding [Palestinian] presidential and legislative elections.”

He was hopeful that reconciliation between the rival factions might be achieved with a view to forging a single Palestinian front able to confront ongoing Israeli violations.

“Israel exploits Palestinian divisions to build new settlements in the West Bank and maintain its blockade on the Gaza Strip,” the ambassador said.

Regarding the Palestinian refugees in Syria, Mustafa said: “While Palestinian refugees in Syria were not part of that country’s conflict, they have nevertheless been badly affected by the war.”

“Unfortunately, the international community has failed,” he said. “The passive stance of the international community, especially the US, has encouraged Russia to carry out egregious human rights violations in Syria,” he added.

(Source / 24.02.2016)

VIDEO: Israeli Military Uses Stun Grenades on Young Palestinian School Kids

It has become a regular occurrence for Palestinian school children to endure physical violence, harassment, body searches and other demoralizing acts at the hands of the Israeli military.

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For those attending school near the notorious Salaymeh checkpoint in Hebron, on Tuesday, the 23rd of February, only nine days after Yasmin al-Zarour was gunned down there, it was to be yet another school morning filled with excessive force, as Israeli soldiers quickly resorted to stun grenades to control an eight year old Palestinian child. This excessive force experienced daily, by the children of Palestine, is yet another cruel and inhumane illustration of Israel’s current apartheid regime.

As Palestinian school children shuffled through the Salaymeh checkpoint, Israeli forces carefully watched over them as if they were a serious security threat. The slow and broken process of queuing in the cold, taking off belts and other items whilst searching bags and bodies is a painful one to watch. In the only act of defiance that an eight year old can show, one Palestinian boy returns from beyond the checkpoint to throw stones at the soldiers. In many countries, such behaviour might be met with serious talks between the child’s parents and authorities. But not in occupied Palestine. Here in Palestine, Israeli forces regularly respond with tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets and stun grenades to stone throwing children.

Today was no different. Israeli soldiers gathered, staring through the scopes of their assault rifles, in order to intimidate and keep a forceful eye over the children. Soon after, a stun grenade is thrown by the occupied forces down the busy street. The stun grenade is off target and smashes a Palestinian car window before exploding. The distress is clear on the faces of innocent bystanders and school children as many flee and one young boy attempts to turn back through the checkpoint in fear.

”It was beyond unnecessary. To see a stun grenade being used to control an unarmed eight year old is disgusting. And who will pay for the poor Palestinians car damage? Not Israel. They are never held accountable no matter how minor or great the crime.”

For many, the rain would be enough to take the day off, but, for eager kinds in Palestine, not even the oppression from the Israeli military can deter them from getting to their place of learning. But, it won’t go unnoticed. The effects of such appalling and degrading harassment will slowly wear down on the minds of these bright school kids. Sadly, as the children of Palestine are exposed to never ending violence and oppression, much of the world sits patiently watching the inhumanity of the apartheid regime, as if a greater reason exists to bring an end to this tyranny than the safety of the children’s lives.

(Source / 24.02.2016)

Dr Aafia Siddiqui

Background of Case

  • Dr Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani mother of three , a brilliant scholar, PhD doctor of cognitive neuroscience
  • Majoring in learning and imitation , improving efficacy of learning in children,
  •  An educationist with a dream a dream to revolutionise the educational system in Pakistan,
  • one that would create a generation Of enlightened and intellectual youth in a country that needed it more than others.
  • Dr. Aafia earned her bachelor’s degree  from MIT and earned her doctorate from Brandeis University.
  • Her doctoral thesis was “Learning through Imitation” in which she included her research on improving learning techniques for children.
  • She was totally dedicated to her children and her academic studies revolved around how children learn.
  • Unfortunately, Dr. Aafia became a victim of domestic violence during her marriage.
  • In 2002, Dr. Aafia’s husband moved the family to Pakistan and soon divorced her while she was pregnant with the couple’s third child.
  • In 2003, Dr Aafia became a victim of a rendition operation was kidnapped along with her little kids.
  • Dr. Aafia is now 43 years old, a mother of three children (2 are US citizens), and is a Pakistani citizen. With no other citizenship
  • Currently languishing in a US jail at FMC Carswell military base where her life is in constant threat.

Circumstances Surrounding the Case

Briefly, here are some of the basic circumstances of Dr. Aafia’s case:

 In March 2003, Dr. Aafia and her three children, Ahmad (boy), six years old and an American citizen, Maryum (girl), four years old and also an American citizen, and baby Suleman (boy), six months old, kidnapped by unknown authorities in Karachi, Pakistan.

On March 31, 2003 it was reported by the Pakistani media that Dr. Aafia had been arrested and turned over to representatives of the United States. In early April, this was confirmed on NBC Nightly News, among other media outlets.

There was communication to the mother of Dr. Aafia from purported “agencies” that the family members should be quiet if they want to see Aafia returned alive.

By the year 2008, many believed that after five years of being disappeared Dr. Aafia and her three children were most likely dead as was the case with thousands

That were sold and victims of rendition operations by a dictator ruling Pakistan (his biography “in the line of fire”)

  • Then, in July of 2008,  three events occurred:

1. British human-rights reporter, Yvonne Ridley and former Bagram detainee and British citizen, Moazem Begg,

publicly spoke about a woman in Bagram screaming, a woman whom they named the “Grey Lady of Bagram”

2. A petition for habeas corpus was filed with the Pakistan High Court in Islamabad requesting that the court order

the Pakistani government to free Dr. Aafia or to even admit that they were then detaining her.

3.  A wave of International out rage emerged as evidence of illegal detainees in bagram and other secret detention centres

Began piling up. A request from the House of Lords in UK to inspect the Bagram facility and a meeting

With prisoner 650 was sent by various human rights activists world wide echoed.

It was in the midst of this whole scenario that a disoriented Aafia is found in Afghanistan and shot a sinister

Plot that makes one shudder.

What Evidence , Investigation has uncovered?

 That Dr. Aafia was (and is) an innocent person who was abducted for money or based on false allegations or false conclusions derived from an unknown source.

That, unfortunately, all evidence required for her defense and establishing legal proof of her detention would require full cooperation by the U.S. and Pakistani governments, and intelligence agencies, a cooperation that seems impossible. However the Person who kidnapped her has finally come forward

And confessed to the heinous crime on the behest of her ex husband and the regime that stripped pakistan Off its dignity by selling its own citizens.

That documents incriminating Dr. Aafia are either false documents or produced under torture or threat of harm to her children.

That the Afghan police were looking for Dr. Aafia and her son based on a description given by an anonymous tip with a shoot on sight Order on the day she was detained in Ghazni.

That had Dr. Aafia  been shot on sight on suspicion of being suicide bombers, this would have led to a convenient closure of the case of Aafia Siddiqui at a time when a massive outcry from international community and a petition for habeas corpus was pending in the High Court of Pakistan in Islamabad.

Note that this court had been asked to order then-President Musharraf and the Pakistani government

(which would include anyone working with them) to release her or to reveal her whereabouts.

That Dr. Aafia, who spoke no local language in Ghazni, was dressed so conspicuously in a manner to be easily identified and shoot on sight as a (falsely-accused) suicide bomber as a part of someone else’s plan.

The forensic and scientific evidence presented during the trial in New York proved that Dr. Aafia could not have committed the crimes for which she was charged, still the the judges closing arguments jury disregarded the evidence and chose to agree with the prosecution due to fear and prejudice.

What Dr. Aafia’s detractors want?

We are asked to believe that Dr. Aafia, a respectable Pakistani woman in all ways, has links to terrorists from Pakistan; (NO terrorism charges against her)was voluntarily hiding under cover with three children acting as a terror field operative while at the same time leaving her family to believe for five years that she and her three children were dead.

We are asked to believe that Dr. Aafia arranged this just after her father died, after finding out her husband cheating on her marriage was disintegrating, and after leaving her widowed mother alone in Pakistan. It is absolutely not plausible and does not even fit the traditional profile by law enforcement of female or male terrorists from that part of the world.

Current Situation

In February, 2010, Dr. Aafia was tried and convicted in a US Federal court on charges of attempted murder and assaulting US servicemen in Ghazni, Afghanistan.  The official charges against Dr. Aafia were that she assaulted U.S. soldiers in Ghazni, Afghanistan, with one of the servicemen’s own rifles, while she was in their custody, waiting to be interrogated by them.

No US personnel were hurt but Dr. Aafia was shot and suffered serious injuries including brain damage. Dr Aafia categorically denies these charges. The forensic and physical evidence denies those charges

There were NO terrorism charges against Dr. Aafia.

According to several legal observers, the trial of Dr. Aafia was littered with many inconsistencies and defects, chief among them being

1.No jurisdiction to try the case in the US. This was a result of a rendition operation.

2. Many rulings by the judge that strongly favored the prosecution and prejudiced the case against the defense.

3.These ranged from allowing much hearsay evidence and jury instructions that favored the prosecution.

4. In addition, Dr. Aafia was not represented by lawyers of her choosing and faced constant innuendos of terrorism when she was not charged with any such offence.

5. As a result of Judge Richard Berman’s framing of the case in a negative light, Dr Aafia was convicted despite ALL physical and forensic evidence that showed that she could not have committed the acts she was charged with.

6. On September 23, 2010, Dr. Aafia was sentenced to 86 years in prison by Judge Richard Berman who overruled the jury’s determination that there was any pre-meditation. The judge also added enhancements that were not part of either the charges against Dr. Aafia nor part of the conviction.

After her sentencing, Dr. Aafia aasked that people not take any revenge or get emotional.  She asked that those who have wronged her be forgiven as she forgave Judge Berman. Dr. Aafia remains imprisoned, now at the notorious Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Carswell, Fort Worth, Texas where she is kept in the Special housing unit (SHU) which is the most severe confinement category. She is still not allowed communication with anyone she trusts, including family members.

7. Being a Muslim her religious book the Quran is desecrated, her clothes stripped, food urinated Upon and what could be a worse form of human coercion than tearing away little children from their mother And then threaten the mother of her children’s safety ?

Dr. Aafia’s Children

Dr. Aafia’s oldest son, Ahmed, who is a U.S. citizen by birth, was found in an American detention Centre , Afghanistan after public pressure and, in late 2008, was reunited with Dr.Aafia’s  sister in Karachi, Pakistan.

Dr. Aafia’s daughter, Maryum, also a US citizen by birth, was recovered in April 2010 and dropped off in Karachi after being missing for 7 íyears.  She was traumatized and spoke only American accented English.

Dr. Aafia’s youngest child, Suleman, a boy who would now be about 12 years old, remains missing; and is feared dead.

What Supporters and Family Seek?

Dr. Aafia, an MIT and Brandeis laureate, is now a broken and mere shell of her former self. Under these circumstances,

Family and supporters are asking the U.S. government to repatriate Dr. Aafia back to her home in Pakistan.

The Pakistani government has formally made this request as this matter has become a major public issue and has support across Pakistani political and social spectrums. Supporters and people of conscience should press government officials to get Dr. Aafia reunited with her family as soon as possible.

Aafia and her family seek no revenge as their faith is in vengeance is mine saith The Lord . Aafia’s case Has become a glaring example Of thousands suffering from rendition operations, illegal detentions, false a Accusations and torture tactics that put barbarism to shame.

Dr Aafia’s family and supporters still have hope in fair minded peoples commitment to mercy and justice to raise their voices with theirs so it be heard in the corridors of power. To help end the violations of basic human rights and let freedom ring. Justice for the past, for all Dr. Aafia has suffered, is hard to imagine.All that is asked for the future is for some measure of correction. If Dr. Aafia is repatriated, perhaps she can pick up some fragments of life with her family.

Closing

We ask people to look into this case themselves, and to do so with an open mind.

There is a lot of information out there on the Internet, and in the media. Many of the stories demonize Aafia, while some raise her to sainthood. Aafia is neither demon nor saint.

Aafia is simply a mother, daughter and sister with a dream, trapped in an extraordinary nightmare.

What is happening to Aafia and thousands others in the aftermath of 911 and the resulting “terror war” not happen to other innocents anymore.

(Source / 24.02.2016)

Yemen government says Hezbollah fighting alongside Houthis

Yemen’s Gulf-backed government on Wednesday accused the Lebanese Shia Muslim militia Hezbollah of training the Houthi rebels and fighting alongside them in attacks on Saudi Arabia’s border, it said in a statement carried by official media.

Yemen’s government and its Gulf partners have long accused Hezbollah’s ally Iran of backing the Houthis and seeking to transform the group into a replica of the Lebanese militia to use as a proxy against its main regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

Its latest assertion is based on “many documents and physical evidence” which Hezbollah would not be able to deny, it said, but that it did not immediately produce.

Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab coalition against the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in a bid to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Although both Iran and Hezbollah have given vocal support to the Houthis, dismissed Hadi’s government as illegitimate and condemned Saudi involvement in the civil war, they deny giving the group military aid.

(Source / 24.02.2016)

Shalash: Health condition of captive Qeiq reaches final stages

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Fayha Shalash, the wife of captive Mohammad al-Qeiq who entered the fourth month of open hunger strike, said that the family is no longer talking about the health condition of Qieq as it has reached its final stages. Shalash explained in an exclusive interview with the PIC reporter on Tuesday that the withdrawal of lawyers from Qeiq’s file was done by the agreement of the family because of the Israeli insistence on refusing to meet his demands. Qadoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, affirmed that the society will boycott Israeli courts on Wednesday and Thursday as a means of solidarity with al-Qeiq’s case. Fares pointed out, in an exclusive statement to the PIC, that the legal procedures on Qeiq’s issue had come to an end after the case had reached the Supreme Court and had thus turned into a political, national case. Fares pointed out that the PPS is waiting for the Israeli response to its proposals including releasing and transferring detainee Qeiq to the Makased hospital.

(Source / 24.02.2016)