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Israel publishes list of prisoners

Oct. 16, 2011 9:57 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 17, 2011 6:29 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel on Sunday published the official list of 477 Palestinian prisoners to be released on Tuesday and took the first steps to releasing detainees.

The gate of a prison in northern Israel swung open on Sunday morning and three heavily guarded vehicles drove out carrying 15 Palestinian female inmates -- some making V-for-victory signs -- to another jail to await their release along with 12 other women and 450 male prisoners in the trade.

Israel's President Shimon Peres received on Saturday the details of the 477 prisoners to be released in the first stage of the exchange, and he is expected to sign their pardons by Tuesday, his spokeswoman said.

The list of 450 Palestinian men and 27 women was published by the justice ministry on the website of the Israel Prisons Service, to give the public 48 hours to lodge any legal appeals against the deal which will see the return of Shalit, who has spent more than five years in captivity.

Another 550 Palestinian prisoners are to be released within two months.

As soon as the list was published, Israel's main radio and television stations began running through the long list of deadly attacks the prisoners named on the list were convicted of.

Among the names mentioned were prisoners who were found guilty of taking part in the 2001 bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub which killed 21 people, and the so-called Passover bombing of a hotel in the coastal town of Netanya in 2002, which killed 29 people, both of which were claimed by Hamas's armed wing.

"Pursuant to the government of Israel's decision from October 11, 2011, to approve the proceedings of the agreement for the liberation of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas, prisoners will be released as detailed in the following list," said the document which details exactly where each prisoner is to be sent.

Soon after publishing the list, Israeli media reported that prison authorities had begun transferring detainees to prisons in southern and central Israel to prepare for the exchange.

Prisoners will undergo checks by the Red Cross in the Ketziot prison near Egypt's border, Haaretz reported, as well as in the Sharon facility in central Israel.

Detainees returning to the Gaza Strip will be transferred to Egypt first from where they will cross into the Strip via the Rafah crossing, Haaretz said.

Last week, several websites affiliated with the Islamist Hamas movement and the Popular Resistance Committees, both of which were involved in capturing Shalit, published lists purportedly naming Palestinians to be freed, but Sunday's list was the first official one released.

With the publication of the list, Israelis who wish to raise a legal challenge against the swap deal between Israel and Hamas, which was announced last Tuesday, can now petition against it.

On Friday, an Israeli group representing victims of Palestinian attacks lodged the first petition at the High Court to cancel, or at least delay, the deal.

The court has never in the past overturned any government decision to free prisoners involved in militant attacks against Israelis.

In their petition, the Almagor said that under the current timetable the victims' families would not have sufficient time to examine the names of prisoners set for release and prepare an appeal.

Shalit is to return to Israel on Tuesday at the same time as the first group of 477 prisoners are freed if the terms of the swap deal are respected, officials say.

Israel's chief negotiator David Meidan returned to Cairo late on Saturday to finalize the details of the prisoner exchange with Hamas, working through Egyptian mediators, media reports said.

Although greeted with initial enthusiasm, many Palestinians are disappointed with the terms of the prisoner swap, which entails some detainees being exiled abroad or away from their homes.

Some 200 detainees will be exiled, 40 detainees overseas and 163 to Gaza.

The prisoners' rights group Addameer says Israel has detained over 650,000 Palestinians since it occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, around 20 percent of the population.

Under international law it is illegal for Israel, as an occupying power, to transfer Palestinians outside the occupied territory.

There are at least 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. They are held in high esteem within society for their role in the national struggle for self determination against Israeli occupation.

Reuters contributed to this report
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