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Hamas grants amnesty in reconciliation gesture

Nov. 25, 2012 1:59 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 26, 2012 12:54 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip on Sunday indicated they would free prisoners affiliated to their West Bank rivals Fatah, giving further momentum to reconciliation efforts since the Israeli war on the coastal enclave.

Government spokesman Taher al-Nunu said the government would grant an amnesty to all suspects and prisoners related to its conflict with Fatah in 2006.

The government will set up a committee to implement this measure, he said.

Al-Nunu said the government decided to leave the period of the division behind them out of respect for national unity.

The parties fought bitterly after Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006, splitting into separate governments in Gaza and the West Bank a year later.

Reconciliation talks have repeatedly stumbled, but Israel's eight-day war on the Gaza Strip which ended Wednesday gave political impetus to ending the division.

While a 2011 reconciliation agreement, never implemented, included the requirement for both sides to release political prisoners, both sides officially deny they are holding affiliates of their rivals for political reasons.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights welcomed the amnesty announcement, saying it "hopes that this decision will push forward the process of the Palestinian reconciliation talks, and that it will mark the end of the division."

Political detentions

Last month, the Independent Commission for Human Rights met 30-odd prisoners affiliated to Fatah in Gaza's internal security jail.

They are mainly held in solitary cells, and under military jurisdiction, ironically using the 1979 law of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Fatah-dominated body of which Hamas is still not a member.

Typical charges, such as collaboration with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, will not hold up in a court of law, so detainees face lengthy detention without charge. One Fatah affiliate has been in jail for four years without trial, ICHR director Ahmad Harb told Ma'an.

Both Fatah and Hamas say inmates are wanted for criminal charges not their political affiliation. ICHR notes that such detentions in the West Bank and Gaza regularly circumvent due process, and the charges are not generally convincing.

Executions

Al-Nunu also pledged that the Gaza government will study the execution of seven suspected collaborators during the conflict in Gaza last week.

A governmental committee will be formed to examine the "extra-judicial executions," he said.

The killings by militant groups in broad daylight on the streets of Gaza has underlined the differences between Hamas' Gaza leadership and the politburo members living in exile.

Gaza Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahhar was defiant in the face of criticism on Saturday. "We will not allow one collaborator to be in Gaza, and let human rights’ groups say whatever they want, a human has a rights if they have honor and not if they are a traitor," he said.

But the deputy chief of Hamas, living in exile, had condemned the killings, urging resistance leaders to use legal procedures to deal with suspected spies through the courts.

Mousa Abu Marzouq said the killings were "not acceptable at all" and that those responsible for the killings must be held accountable, in a Facebook post earlier this week. The incident "must never happen again," he added.
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