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Official: Public freedoms reconciliation committee to meet

Feb. 5, 2013 1:42 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 5, 2013 8:09 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The public freedoms committee, formed to implement national reconciliation, will meet Tuesday in the West Bank, a committee member said Monday.

Khalil Assaf told Ma'an the committee would discuss returning property to its owners, suspending laws enacted since Hamas and Fatah split, and the application of Palestinian law and respect for freedoms.

The committee will also follow up on issues discussed in the committee's last meeting, Assaf said.

On Saturday, the committee agreed that all citizens have a right to a passport, and this must be implemented by submitting relevant documents to authorities, Assaf said. Since the division, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have been unable to get passports from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

The committee also agreed that security services must stop summoning Palestinians for political reasons; summons must only be issued for legal reasons and interviews must be conducted in the presence of a lawyer, according to Assaf.

Committee members also guaranteed the right to freedom of movement, and agreed that all newspapers must be distributed freely in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to cancel questioning about political affiliation in applications for government jobs must be implemented and all political detainees should be released, the committee said, adding that civilians must be not be tried in military courts.

Finally, parties must be allowed to conduct political activity without discrimination, the committee said, citing the recent anniversary celebrations of Hamas in the West Bank and Fatah in Gaza as examples of this freedom.

Assaf, who heads the independent figures in the West Bank, urged factions to implement reconciliation as soon as possible, and said assaults on civil liberties occurred because of the presence of two governments in Palestine.

The committee of public freedoms held a meeting in Gaza City in January for the first time in around a year.

Deputy secretary-general of the Palestinian Democratic Union Fida Khalid al-Khatib told Ma'an that the committee had previously suspended its work because none of its recommendations were implemented.
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