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High level PA panel to investigate "organ theft" claims

Sept. 3, 2009 10:15 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 4, 2009 1:36 P.M.)
Ramallah – Ma’an – The Palestinian Authority (PA) is forming a high-level panel to investigate allegations that the Israeli military “stole organs” from Palestinian detainees, officials said on Thursday.

The secretary general of the PA Council of Ministers, Dr Hassan Abu Libdeh, said that the committee has already started work by collecting all available information about the issue. He said the PA will take a sharp position on this issue, because, if true, the alleged events would constitute violations of human rights.

The ministers of Health, Interior and Foreign Affairs, and senior officials from each ministry are to sit on the commission.

The controversy over allegations of organ harvesting began in August when the popular Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published a story laying out claims that soldiers had returned the bodies of dead Palestinians with their chests cut open, then sown shut.

When the article was reprinted in the Hebrew-language media, a diplomatic crisis ensued when senior Israeli officials demanded that the Swedish government denounce the report, which Israel said was anti-Semitic.

Journalist Donald Boström has maintained that in writing the article, he merely wanted to call attention to the Palestinians’ claims in order to call for an investigation into the matter.

The case at the center of the controversy was that of Ahmed Bilal Ghanem, who was shot by Israeli soldiers in 1992. His body was returned with the chest sown up.

Abu Libdeh, the PA official, criticized Ghanem’s brother, who according to Abu Libdeh said the PA did not care about the issue.

He also said a Swedish delegation recently visited the family to listen to their account of the story, and their belief that Israel removed organs from Ahmed’s body during an authorized autopsy.

“If we don’t visit the families that does not mean the Authority is not following up on the file,” said Abu Libdeh.
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