Three Jewish settlers convicted of murder in 1985 as part of an anti-Arab terrorist underground will soon see their life sentences commuted to "about 25 years," presidential spokesman Ami Gluska confirmed Tuesday.
The change means that the men, members of the so-called Jewish Underground, will be eligible for parole around the year 2000 and in the meantime will be allowed prison-approved home visits.
"In all cases of life sentences, the president eventually commutes the sentence to a fixed period," Gluska commented.
'Will Happen in Near Future'
He said President Chaim Herzog has commuted about 20 life sentences in the last year and added that "this will also apply to the Jewish Underground members who are serving life terms. This will happen in the near future."
The decision affects Menachem Livni, 40, Shaul Nir, 33, and Uzi Sharabaf, 25. It follows intensive lobbying by leaders of the settlement movement, which establishes Jews on the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River.
The July, 1985, murder convictions against the three men stemmed from a 1983 submachine gun and hand-grenade attack on Arab students at the Islamic College in Hebron, the second largest city on the West Bank. Three students were killed and 33 wounded in the incident.
Livni was found guilty of planning the attack, which was carried out by Nir and Sharabaf. They said they had decided to retaliate after a number of Arab attacks on Jews in Hebron.
The three were among 25 Jews arrested in April, 1984, for a series of terrorist acts against Arabs dating from 1980. Two army officers were also implicated in the ring.
All 25 were convicted after one of the most politically explosive trials in Israel's history. The court rejected defense arguments that the men had acted in self-defense after the authorities failed to provide adequate protection against Arab terrorist attacks on Jewish settlers.
17 Already Freed
Seventeen of those convicted have already been freed after their jail terms were reduced by presidential decree. Eight, including the three serving life terms, remain in prison.
Livni, Nir and Sharabaf are all residents of a controversial Jewish enclave in the heart of predominantly Arab Hebron and are associated with the most militant wing of the settlement movement.
The enclave exists on land owned by Jews before bloody Arab riots forced them to flee in the 1930s. However, critics charge that it is an unnecessary provocation to the city's Arab residents.