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Palestinian MK demands release of PLC members; reinstatement of Jerusalem ID

Sept. 12, 2008 3:29 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 12, 2008 3:29 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Palestinian Member of the Israeli Knesset (MK) Sheikh Ibrahim Abdallah continued his fight against the two-year-old decision to strip members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) of their Jerusalem ID cards.

In 2006 after nearly forty PLC members were arrested following the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. There are currently 43 PLC members in Israeli prisons, three of whom have Jerusalem identity cards, meaning they are Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Mohammad Abu Tir , Mohammad Totah and Ahmad A'toun are the three PLC members whose status as Jerusalemites is being contested.

According to MK Abdallah, Head of the Islamic movement in Israel as well as the Arab and unified bloc, the decision of Israel's Interior Minister Meir Shitrit was taken without giving notice to or consulting the detained PLC members. Abdullah said that the men must be given a chance to speak, and that without giving them a hearing the decision to strip them of their identity cards is illegal.

On Wednesday Abdullah sent a letter to Shirit, about a petition submitted to the Israeli High Court submitted by lawyers Usama As-Sa'di and Fadi Qawasmi that went through a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

The letter was followed up by a public call to Shirit on Friday, asking once again for the minister to revoke his earlier decision.

In his statement , MK Abdullah called the decision to keep PLC members in prison for two years "illogical," adding that they remain in prison "without any guilt except that they were victims of local, international and regional disagreements which are but part of an unjustified war against the Palestinians."

Abdullah said that he checked into the official procedures surrounding the decision to strip the PLC members of their ID cards, and found proceedings to have been unconstitutional. If proper legal methods were applied, he added, "The residency of theses PLC members would not be withdrawn at all."

Abdullah called for the release of all of the Palestinian PLC members and other Palestinian Ministers who are currently in Israeli jails. He called it a move that would begin to build confidence for peace talks, and allow a Palestinian state to function.

He added that former PLC Member Khalid Arafah, is no longer a minster in the Palestinian government after formation of the care taker government headed by Prime Minster Salam Fayyad. Therefore, he said, "there is no justification for his continued detention."

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