Anger, Fear, Criticism Greet Release of 400 Terrorists

At 11:00 AM, 400 Arab terrorist prisoners were released at five locations throughout Judea and Samaria. The High Court rejected without explanation a petition against the release last night.

, | updated: 10:19

The authorities took the time to distribute the prisoners to drop-off points near their homes. About a third of the terrorists were released in each of two places - Tarkumiye, west of Hevron, and Be'erotayim, near Tul Karem - and the others in Erez, Salem, and Bituniya.

Prime Minister Sharon agreed to the release of 900 prisoners this past February, in two stages; today's installment is the second. The move was to be a gesture towards PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and a way of strengthening his status within the Arab public of Yesha.

Two of the 400 terrorists refused to leave prison, with one saying he wished to remain with his brother, and the other explaining that he wished to complete his high school matriculation studies that he began in prison.

Just last night, the Supreme Court turned down two Jewish teenaged girls who requested to take their high school matriculation exams in prison. They were arrested last week for taking part in road-blockings, and refuse to be released with the restrictions the courts wish to place upon them. "For principles, one must pay," said High Court Justice Mishael Cheshin last night, in turning down the girls' request.

The Legal Institute for the Study of Terrorism petitioned the Supreme Court against the terrorists' release, but was turned down. The Almagor Terror Victims Association also tried to stay the release, turning to the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Ministers of Public Security, Justice and Security.

Both organizations maintain that the freed terrorists did not meet the criteria stipulated by the Cabinet itself. "Many of them are terrorists convicted of severe crimes who received light sentences," Almagor said, "in keeping with the policy of recent years. Now they're leaving prison without even having served 2/3 of their time, as the release policy guidelines dictate, and sometimes not even half. There are even some who served only 10% of their sentences."

Others pointed out that many of the terrorists released are members of Hamas, an organization competing with Abu Abbas for power in the PA. Critics of the deal say that it will thus not strengthen Abbas, and will rather "inject new blood into the terrorist ranks of Yesha."

Almagor says that 175 of the terrorists in question did not serve even half their sentences, while another six served some 10% of their sentences.

Many of the terrorists were convicted of shooting, and others of placing bombs equal in force to a suicide attack.

Today's release indicates "a worrisome erosion in the policy governing terrorist releases in these areas: release before 2/3 of the sentence, as well of release of terrorists who engaged in manufacturing and smuggling weapons, dispatched others on terror mission, refuse to sign commitments not to return to terrorism, and members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP. The release of terrorists leads to the destruction of Israel's deterrence and legal system, turning it into a joke in the eyes of the terrorists."





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