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The BBC's Hilary Andersson in Jerusalem
"Human rights groups have called this a breakthrough"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 April, 2000, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Israeli court frees Lebanese prisoners
Prison
Some Palestinians have been detained for years
By Hilary Andersson in Jerusalem

Israel's High Court has ordered the release of eight Lebanese prisoners who are being held as bargaining chips for Israeli soldiers missing in Lebanon.

The High Court ruled that detainees not directly involved in security matters cannot be held.

Human rights groups have called this a "breakthrough ruling".

Over 20 held

For several years now, more than 20 Lebanese prisoners have been held in Israeli jails, some as bargaining chips for the return of Ron Arad, an Israeli airman who was captured in Lebanon in 1986, after his plane was shot down.


Prisoners
Some prisones at al-Khiam in Israel were kidnapped
In recent months, six Lebanese detainees have been released in what would appear to be a good will gesture aimed at spurring on the Israeli-Syrian peace process.

Seven of the Lebanese prisoners remain in jail.

They include two prominent prisoners - the Muslim spiritual leader Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid who was abducted from Lebanon in 1989, and Mustapha Dirani who was abducted in 1994.

Their names were not part of the petition for release that the court has recently been considering.

Although the court ruling is significant, the law in Israel still allows for detention without trial.

More than 10 Palestinians are being held without trial.

The government has not so far lived up to its promise to end the state of emergency which has been in existence for more than 50 years, and which gives the security forces wide-ranging powers of detention.

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See also:

26 Dec 99 | Middle East
Hezbollah prisoners back in Lebanon
13 Jan 00 | Middle East
Militia release Lebanese detainees
29 Dec 99 | Middle East
Palestinian prisoners released
15 Dec 99 | Middle East
Analysis: The Lebanon factor
26 Jun 98 | Middle East
Israeli-Lebanese exchange completed
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