Gov't to form panel on criteria for freeing 250 prisoners

Committee will lay down guidelines for freeing Fatah inmates "without blood on their hands"; will debate releasing 4 Jordanians.

Prisoners 298.88 AP good (photo credit: AP)
Prisoners 298.88 AP good
(photo credit: AP)
The cabinet is expected to establish a committee to determine the criteria for the release of some 250 Fatah prisoners "without blood on their hands," as well as the transfer to Jordan of four terrorists convicted of killing two IDF soldiers in 1990, at a meeting Sunday that will likely be the last one for Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon. Maimon, one of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's closest advisers, was appointed cabinet secretary by Ariel Sharon in March 2003. He announced his intention to resign last year, but delayed the date twice at Olmert's request. This time, however, he has made clear he intends to leave his influential post to return to the private sector. The decisions regarding the prisoners follow last week's Sharm e-Sheikh summit between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak. The release of the Fatah prisoners is an effort to bolster Abbas, and the transfer of the Jordanians to jails in the Hashemite Kingdom has been described as a "goodwill gesture" to Abdullah. The cabinet is expected to establish a smaller ministerial committee to determine the criteria for the release of the Fatah prisoners. At the Sharm summit, Olmert said that he would bring to the cabinet a "recommendation to release 250 prisoners from Fatah, without blood on their hands, as long as they sign commitments not to again become involved in terrorism." Once those criteria are established, the issue is then expected to be brought to a cabinet vote, and then security officials will get together and come up with 250 names. Once the names are released, the public will have 48 hours to register objections. Regarding the Jordanian prisoners, three of the prisoners infiltrated from Jordan in November 1990 and, in a firefight with the IDF, killed Capt. Yehuda Lifshitz. Six days later another infiltrator crossed the border, infiltrated an IDF outpost and killed Sgt. Pinhas Levy. Government sources said that Lifshitz's family was expected to appeal to the High Court of Justice to block the transfer within the 48-hour "window" following the cabinet approval. The sources said that based on previous precedents, it was unlikely that the court would uphold the appeal. The four men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. They have served 17 years of their sentence. The Jordanians have been pressing Israel for years to allow them to serve their sentences in Jordanian prisons.