Monday 30 March 2009

Israel to deny prisoners their rights

Israel has approved legislation to deny Palestinian prisoners their rights as a last ditch effort to free captured soldier Gilad Shalit.

The cabinet voted for proposals presented by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann calling for cutting back on Palestinian prisoners' visitation rights, academic studies and means of communication, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.

In addition to sanctions on entertainment media, the prisoners will be subject to stricter guidelines regarding the transfer of money for use at the prison canteen.

The recommendations were made during the weekly cabinet meeting which was the final meeting of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government.

Friedmann briefed the cabinet on legislature that would have to be instituted in order to take further steps.

"It is true that we are the only democracy in the Middle East, but we can't let ourselves become the only suckers and we mustn't show weakness," he claimed.

The Prisons service announced that the recommendations will go into effect in the near future.

The move is expected to raise strong criticism among the human rights groups, which have been increasing mounting pressure on Tel Aviv over its disregard for human rights during the war on Gaza.

Israeli forces targeted numerous civilian buildings including homes, mosques, media centers and even UN schools, during three weeks of non-stop fire on the Gaza Strip.

There is also evidence proving that Tel Aviv has resorted to unconventional weapons - including depleted uranium and white phosphorus -- during the onslaught.

Following the war on Gaza Hamas and Israel engaged in negotiations but failed to reach a prisoner swap deal in Egypt earlier this month.

The two sides have been negotiating an agreement under which hundreds of Palestinian prisoners would be released in exchange for the release of Shalit -- captured in a cross border operation by Palestinian fighters in 2006.

Israel has been insisting that high profile prisoners must be expelled from Palestinian territories upon their release - a request strongly opposed to by Hamas.


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