PA Prisoner Affairs Min.: Israel ready to view security prisoners as POWs.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEHIsrael was showing readiness to reconsider the status of Palestinian prisoners so that they would be seen as prisoners of war, Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoner Affairs Sufian Abu Zaida announced Tuesday.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Abu Zaida said that for the first time, Israel was ready to consider changing its policy and to recognize Palestinian security prisoners as POWs.
â€On the issue of prisoners I am very happy, very happy. This is the first time Israel is considering changing its position regarding the release of prisoners,â€ he said. â€œFor the first time, the Israelis are saying they are ready to think about the prisoners in a different way.â€
Abu Zaida later explained that the prisoners, especially those who were arrested before the signing of the Oslo Accords, had been acting on the instructions of the PLO as part of the struggle against Israeli occupation.
â€œThe entire PLO leadership is responsible for the prisoners,â€ he explained. â€œThese prisoners are therefore entitled to be classified as prisoners of war.â€
Abu Zaida said the PA was seeking the immediate release of veteran Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar and Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. Israelâ€™s refusal to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners was behind the decision to postpone a planned summit between PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
â€œBut the prisoners is an issue much bigger than Samir Kuntar or Marwan Barghouti,â€ Abu Zaida said. â€œYes, Samir has been in jail more than 25 years and thatâ€™s enough, and Marwanâ€™s trial was in our eyes political, but this is a bigger issue.â€
The PA minister disclosed that Barghouti, who was arrested three years ago, was planning to run as a candidate in the next parliamentary elections. He said several other Fatah prisoners had announced that they would also contest the vote.
Abu Zaida said the PA had asked Israel to allow the prisoners, including Barghouti, to run in the elections.
Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said the PA was demanding the release of 20 prisoners who have been in jail for more than two decades. He said the list included Barghouti because he was a lawmaker.