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PA minister visits family of imprisoned Palestinian Christian

July 4, 2009 9:05 P.M. (Updated: July 4, 2009 9:05 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The Palestinian Authority's minister of prisoners affairs applauded local Christians on Saturday during his visit with the family of a jailed former fighter in Bethlehem.

PA Minister of Prisoners and Ex-detainees Affairs Issa Qaraqe said that the Christians of Palestine "have endured great challenges in facing the Israeli occupation, and in defending Palestinian dignity, which has cost them dearly."

The official's comments came during a visit to the family of jailed Bethlehem native Chris Bandak, a local Greek Orthodox Christian and former leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Tanzim, both militant wings of the Fatah movement.

According to Bandak's family, most of his relatives have been prevented from visiting the Palestinian, who was sentenced to multiple life terms by an Israeli court for his activities in the local resistance movement against the occupation during the Second Intifada.

Also joining the PA minister Saturday was the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, Muhammad Abd Rabbu, who spoke with the family of the case of their son who has been jailed in Beersheva since his arrest on 6 February 2003 on charges that he killed at least two Israelis in the West Bank.

Relatives of the prisoner said that those who have actually been permitted to visit Bandak have suffered constant harassment for the past seven years at military checkpoints en route to the prison, as well as during visits at the jail itself.

One relative of the militant, who had been considered a high-value target by the Israeli military and was on its "wanted" list for two years before his 2003 capture, passed along Bandak's greetings to the Palestinian people, calling on them not to go back to negotiations that "rule out releasing prisoners," or fail to stop "inhumane practices against them."

Following his conversation with the family, Minister Qaraqe praised all Christian families' "steadfastness against the Israeli occupation," calling their efforts evidence that "Palestinians are one people, despite differences in their religions and communities."

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