Israel releases speaker of Palestinian parliament from detention
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RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Israeli authorities released a senior Hamas lawmaker Thursday after six months held under the controversial practice of administrative detention.
Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian parliament, was arrested Jan. 19 at a checkpoint as he was leaving Ramallah for his hometown of Hebron in the southern end of the West Bank.
Israel uses administrative detention to hold Palestinians in prison without charge or trial for up to six months, with the possibility of indefinite extensions. The practice is widely condemned by the international community.
Some of the more than 300 Palestinians held under the system recently participated in long hunger strikes to protest their detention, and some have won release.
Dweik, who is in his 60s, was elected to the Palestinian parliament in 2006 on a Hamas-backed ticket. The parliament largely stopped functioning when Hamas’ forces drove loyalists of the Fatah movement out of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
On Thursday, members of his family and Hamas lawmakers and officials waited for him at an Israeli army checkpoint near Ramallah, where he was dropped off.
Dweik’s attorney, Fadi Qawasmi, who had negotiated a deal with the military prosecutor to allow the release of the speaker at the end of his term, said he believed Dweik was released because of his stature as speaker of the parliament.
“Pressure from parliament members around the world must have left an impact on the Israeli decision to release him,” he said.
Israel still holds 21 Palestinian lawmakers from the West Bank, almost all of them members of Hamas, under administrative detention.
-- Maher Abukhater