Jerusalem, 11 January 1996

PALESTINIAN PRISONERS RELEASED

(Communicated by Justice Ministry Spokesperson)

On Wednesday, January 10, 1996, Israel freed 812 Palestinian prisoners who agreed to sign a declaration renouncing terrorism. According to Justice Minister David Liba’i, only 4 prisoners refused to sign the declaration and they were not released. 607 of the prisoners were sent to their homes in Judea and Samaria, 205 to their homes in Gaza and the remainder reached Nablus and Jenin during the night.

The Justice Minister praised the IDF and Prison Authority officers who carried out the release in conjunction with Palestinian Authority officials.

Minister Liba’i made it clear that the prisoners who were released met the criteria set forth in the interim agreement and by the decision of the Israeli Government. All of the released prisoners were either found guilty of only minor offenses or have already served at least two-thirds of their prison terms. None among them is guilty of either murder or committing serious acts of terrorism.

Today (Thursday), 11.01.96, an additional 230 Palestinian security prisoners are scheduled to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority; they are residents of the territories mostly Fatah members who were charged with the death or wounding of Palestinians.

These prisoners will be transferred to Palestinian Authority officials together with the imprisonment orders and judgments issued against them. These prisoners are forbidden from entering Israel until completion of their full prison term. Should they violate this condition, they will be returned to prison for a period of time greater than their initial sentence.

Minister Liba’i explained that security officials checked each prisoner who was a candidate for release; only those prisoners who were considered to pose only a minimal threat to the security of the state and its residents, or who appeared to support the PLO leadership and its policies, were chosen for release.

The Justice Minister said, "Had we not agreed to transfer the 230 prisoners with Palestinian blood on their hands to the Palestinian Authority, we would have had to free a similar number of prisoners who support Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who in the opinion of security officials it would be better not to release at this stage. Therefore, we did not release prisoners whose release was opposed to by security officials."

The Justice Minister said that the remaining prisoners most of whom have committed criminal offenses whose release was agreed to, will be either released or transferred to the Palestinian Authority next week.

Regarding the female Palestinian prisoners, the Justice Minister noted that they will remain in prison and no attempt to free them against their will will be made. They will be the subject of discussions at the next meeting between Dr. Nabil Sha’ath, Freih Abu Medein, and Ministers Liba’i and Sarid.