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Delegate: Factions bypassing freedoms committee

Feb. 27, 2012 9:19 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 29, 2012 10:17 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A member of the public freedoms committee set up to implement a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah said Monday that the factions are bypassing the group on the issue of political prisoners.

The parties agreed bilaterally to submit to Egypt a list of Fatah-affiliates detained for political reasons in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip during a recent meeting in Cairo, Palestinian Democratic Union deputy head Khalid Al-Khatib said.

He complained that the parties were ignoring the work of the public freedoms committee by following the Egyptian-sponsored procedure.

Hamas authorities issued an arrest warrant for a member of the committee, Khalil Abu Shamala, who is the director of Gaza-based human rights group Al-Dameer, after he criticized a state-run energy authority, he told Ma'an on Sunday.

After party chiefs President Mahmoud Abbas and Khalid Mashaal met three months ago to kickstart May's deal, they formed a number of committees tasked with overseeing implementation of the reconciliation agreement.

The public freedoms committee was set to supervise the release of political affiliates on both sides, as well as improvements in political freedoms, ending newspaper bans, and reopening charities and other bodies closed during more than four years political division between governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Frustration has increased as the committee has been unable to show much for its work, despite several premature announcements that newspapers would begin circulating and detainees be released.

On Feb. 13 a committee member told Ma'an Egyptian officials recommended that Egypt monitors the committee's work in order to overcome obstacles it has been facing in the West Bank and Gaza.

Earlier, committee coordinator in Gaza Khalid Al-Batsh said Hamas had agreed to release 18 Fatah-affiliated prisoners, and find a solution for the return of 70 Fatah affiliates who fled the Gaza Strip during infighting in 2007.

A year after Hamas won national elections, bitterness with Fatah incumbents exploded into near-civil war and Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, establishing rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank.
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