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Abbas says prisoner release crucial to peace efforts

April 27, 2013 8:25 P.M. (Updated: May 7, 2013 11:36 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The release of Palestinian prisoners will reflect Israel's commitment to peace talks, president Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday during a conference in Ramallah.

Abbas made the comments in a prerecorded speech played at the opening session of the Freedom and Dignity conference to mark the 11th year since Israel's arrest of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, official news agency Wafa reported.

Israel must be held accountable for its crimes, Abbas said, adding that as a non-member observer state Palestine has "the freedom to take legal action at any international forum."

Vice President of the European Parliament, Isabelle Durant, said in an address to the audience that Israel must be held accountable for holding prisoners under administrative detention, calling it a human rights issue.

Former US President Jimmy Carter said in a recorded speech that Israel must stop settlement construction and stressed the importance of Palestinian prisoners in future peace talks.

Caretaker prime minister Salam Fayyad said that the meeting was proof in itself that Palestinian prisoners are not alone, while PA minister for detainees Issa Qaraqe spoke to the audience about rights violations in Israeli jails and the practice of arresting minors.

Peace can not be accomplished as long as Israel continues to hold Palestinians in jail, Qaraqe added.

There are 4,900 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including 168 administrative detainees, 14 women and 236 children, according to Addameer.
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