(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

The committee on the release of prisoners chaired by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided this morning (Sunday), 19 December 2004, to release 170 Palestinian security prisoners. The committee had convened this morning in order to receive a report on the work of the inter-ministerial committee chaired by Justice Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramovitz.

In addition to Prime Minister Sharon, Foreign Minister Silvan shalom, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Attorney General Meni Mazuz are members of the committee.

Prime Minister Sharon said that the background of the Palestinian prisoner release was, “a gesture of goodwill, friendship and gratitude to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for his decision to release Azzam Azzam."

The inter-ministerial committee briefed the ministers on the results of its work and on its recommendations regarding the release of Palestinian prisoners according to parameters that were determined when Abu Mazen served as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister: No prisoners who are in the process of being investigated or of being tried will be released; no prisoners or detainees “with blood on their hands” will be released; no prisoners who were previously tried for security offenses and who were released in the framework of the diplomatic process or in an exchange of captives will be released.

After the inter-ministerial committee briefing, the committee approved the release of 170 prisoners. The release will be carried out at the beginning of next week. The prisoners’ names will be published on the Israel Prison Service website at least 48 hours prior to their actual release.