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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 August 2006, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Hamas speaker charged in Israel
Speaker of the Palestinian parliament Abdel Aziz Dweik
Dozens of Hamas officials have been detained by Israel
An Israeli court has charged the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Abdel Aziz Dweik, with being a member of the militant group Hamas.

Mr Dweik is one of dozens of Hamas officials to be detained by Israeli authorities in recent weeks.

Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government, is illegal in Israel and regarded as a terrorist organisation.

Standing in shackles before a court in an Israeli prison, Mr Dweik said the court had no right to charge him.

"It is a political trial, and I don't recognise it," Mr Dweik said. "I am an elected official."
This is a political abduction, this is an attempt at exercising pressure and political blackmail and we feel that this is in violation of all international laws and conventions and Israel has to be held accountable
Hanan Ashrawi
Palestinian cabinet member

He was also charged with having had contact with Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas political leader.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian cabinet and a civil rights activist, said the case was politically motivated.

"This is a political abduction, this is an attempt at exercising pressure and political blackmail, and we feel that this is in violation of all international laws and conventions, and Israel has to be held accountable."

String of arrests

Mr Dweik's lawyers have complained that he is being held in unsanitary conditions and that his cell is full of cockroaches.

The official was arrested earlier this month. At one point, he was taken to hospital complaining of chest pains.

In recent weeks, Israel has arrested dozens of Hamas officials, including the Deputy Prime Minister, Nasser Shaer.

The string of arrests follows the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants from Gaza in a cross-border raid in late June.




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