Clemency Given to Convicted KillersBy Laurie Copans
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, February 3,
1999; 1:44 p.m. EST
JERUSALEM (AP) -- President Ezer Weizman has reduced the sentences of seven Jewish ultra-nationalists convicted of killing or plotting to kill Arabs, his top adviser said Wednesday.
Weizman also decided to cut short the terms of five Arab inmates, said the aide, Arieh Shumer.
Among those granted clemency was Ami Popper, who killed seven Arab laborers in a random shooting in 1990. Popper's seven life-terms were cut to 40 years, and he will be eligible for release after serving two-thirds of that time.
The Palestinian Authority was angered by Weizman's decision, saying it would encourage other extremists to attack Arabs.
In recent months, Israel's refusal to release Palestinians involved in attacks on Israelis has led to friction with the Palestinian Authority. The dispute contributed to the collapse of the Wye River peace agreement in which Israel was to withdraw from 13 percent of the West Bank and release 750 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for security guarantees.
``At a time when Israel freezes the implementation of the Wye agreement ... Israel is paving the way for the release of Israeli killers and criminals,'' said Ahmed Abdel Rahman, secretary general of the Palestinian Authority.
Of the five Arabs on Weizman's list, three were convicted of planting explosives and two were convicted of being accessories to a murder.
One of the Arabs, Hala Hatzna Kanan, has already been released. He served 8 1/2 years of a 13-year sentence for planting bombs that were discovered before being detonated.
Ali Abdallah Amriyah, who was given a life term for injuring civilians by throwing a grenade on a city street and setting fire to buses, had his sentence commuted to 40 years.
Shumer said Weizman hoped that by reducing the sentences of both Jewish and Arab prisoners, he would help the peace process.
``This is part of the general reconciliation necessary in the Middle East,'' Shumer told Israel radio.
Israeli Arab lawmaker Talib Alsana said that the president applied a double standard.
``An Arab prisoner that didn't kill a single Jew had his sentence reduced to 40 years,'' Alsana said, referring to Amriyah. ``And today we hear, for example, that Ami Popper who killed seven Arabs had his sentence reduced to 40 years. That's a discriminatory approach.''
(c) Copyright 1999 The Associated Press
Thu., Feb. 04 02:23
Weizman Cuts Terms of 5 Jewish killers
By Batsheva Tsur
JERUSALEM (February 4) - President Ezer Weizman is reviewing the files of some 20 Israeli Arab political prisoners, Beit Hanassi Director-General Arye Shumer said yesterday. He spoke after it was announced that the sentences of seven Jews serving long terms for murdering or attempting to kill Arabs had been commuted.
One of them was Ami Popper, serving seven concurrent life sentences for murdering seven Palestinian workers and wounding another 10 in May 1990.
The others had also been jailed for "nationalistically motivated" crimes.
At the same time, five Israeli Arabs, sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of terrorist activities, also received commutations. One of them, Khaled Kanaan, was released last week for what were officially described as "health reasons."
"The reduction of sentences is intended to create an atmosphere of reconciliation and to help push forward the peace process," Shumer said. "It is part of the ongoing process of reviewing prisoners' files during the jubilee year... All committed crimes which were basically unforgivable, and it was a prerequisite that they express their remorse."
After a thorough review which lasted several months, Weizman signed the recommendations for commuting the sentences at a meeting with Justice Minister Tzahi Hanegbi last week. But the signature came only after every prisoner had expressed regret for his crime and undertaken not to repeat it, Shumer stressed.
The president accepted Hanegbi's recommendations. The list of prisoners includes three men serving life for murder:
- Popper, whose term was reduced to 40 years;
- Arye Skolnik, who in March 1993, in cold blood, shot dead a terrorist who had been apprehended and bound hand and foot, and whose sentence was commuted to 11 years and 3 months;
- Avraham Vaknin, sentenced in 1991 for the murder of Jalal Abu Zaideh of Ramallah, whose sentence was reduced to 15 years.
Since Weizman had already commuted the sentences of the latter two when Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was released in 1997, he made the new commutations after receiving appeals from the families, Shumer said.
Also receiving commutations were:
*Nehemia Mishbaum, who in November 1992 was one of four teenage members of the outlawed Kahane Chai movement who threw a grenade into the Butcher's Market of Jerusalem's Old City, killing a 62-year-old Arab man and wounding seven, whose his 15-year sentence was cut to 10 years;
*Brothers Eitan and Yehoyada Kahalani, who attempted to murder an Arab man in September 1994 near Batir, cut from 12 to eight years;
*Daniel Morali, who shot a Palestinian worshiper near Kiryat Gat in March 1994 in revenge for his brother's death, whose life sentence was reduced.
Prisoners are generally given one-third off their sentences for good behavior, which could further reduce them.
The four Israeli Arabs - convicted of causing numerous casualties by placing bombs on buses and murdering IDF soldiers - are: Mahmoud Jabrin (from life to 30 years); Wasfi Mansur (from life to 30 years) ; Ali Omariya (from life to 40 years): Mohammed Jabrin (from life to 30 years).
According to a Channel 2 report, Kanaan, the fifth man serving life who was released last week, owes his freedom to a political deal. The report said that Weizman had secured support for his election to a second term as president from Arab MKs, who demanded that political prisoners receive pardons.
Reacting to the report, Shumer said: "It's nonsense. It is like saying that Hanegbi recommended the seven for political reasons."
Meanwhile, Hanegbi reportedly did not go along with the accepted practice of consulting the State Attorney's Office over his proposals.
The Justice Ministry spokesman refused to comment on an Israel Radio report that there had been "reservations" over the move in the ministry, "especially in view of the sensitivity of the subject."
Hanegbi, however, went on record as saying that thousands of Arab prisoners had already been released for political reasons.
"This is merely a balance," he said. "There have been instances in the past, during the peace process, where prisoners from the other side have been released when they were serving time [for acts committed] for nationalistic reasons.
"The previous government let people go. This government has done so, too, and I personally have signed pardons for Arab women who murdered Jews. I feel the same custom should be upheld for Jewish prisoners."
Shumer pointed out that Weizman has not changed his declared intention of refusing to commute sentences of persons who committed criminally motivated murders. And he added that, while the president had commuted sentences for certain nationalistically motivated crimes, "no one - except [Kanaan] - is going home yet."
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