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Critically ill Palestinian released from Israeli jail

April 18, 2013|By Maher Abukhater
  • Palestinian children shout slogans before a large poster showing the names of over 100 Palestinians from Jerusalem who are currently held in Israeli prisons during a protest Wednesday at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. A critically ill Palestinian prisoner was released Thursday for what Israel said were humanitarian reasons.
Palestinian children shout slogans before a large poster showing the names… (Jim Hollander / EPA )

RAMALLAH, West Bank–-Two weeks after a Palestinian prisoner died of cancer in an Israeli jail, provoking violent protests in the West Bank, Israel released a critically ill Palestinian prisoner who had served 11 years of a 14-year-sentence.

Muhammad Taj, 43, from the West Bank town of Toubas, was admitted to intensive care at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah immediately after his release Thursday. Doctors there diagnosed his condition as “very critical.”

Taj suffers from lung failure and has difficulty breathing. He can breathe only through a respirator, said his doctors.

Palestinians charged that Israel released him only after it became evident that he might die in prison, but Israeli officials said he was released for compassionate reasons.

“The decision to release him was made on humanitarian grounds since the prisoner is ill with a serious disease,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said in a statement issued by his office.

The statement said Peres granted Taj amnesty at the recommendation of Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni after the prisoner had served more than two-thirds of his sentence.

Qaddoura Faris, director of the Prisoners Club, a prisoners support group, said he believed Israel released the prisoner out of concern for the response from Palestinians if he were to die in prison.

“Israel wants to throw the ball into our court,” he said.

Maysara Abu Hamdieh, who was serving a life term, died in prison of cancer in early April. His death provoked a strong reaction in the West Bank and some international criticism over Israeli treatment of Palestinian prisoners.

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