Court Orders Release PLO Militant
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP - 6-03-02) - A Palestinian military tribunal on Monday ordered the release of a radical PLO faction leader who is being held in a West Bank jail under British and U.S. supervision.
Despite the court ruling, there was no sign that the detainee, Ahmed Saadat, would be freed. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's adviser, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, declined comment. There was no comment from British and U.S. officials.
The release of Saadat, whose faction assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in October, would anger Israel which had initially called for his extradition.
Saadat heads the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a PLO faction that claimed responsibility for the Zeevi assassination. Saadat and four PFLP members involved in the assassination were detained by Arafat's security forces several months after the Zeevi killing.
When Israel occupied the West Bank town of Ramallah in late March, the five men found refuge in Arafat's headquarters there. At the time, Israeli troops took over much of Arafat's compound, confining the Palestinian leader and his entourage to a few rooms.
As part of a deal bringing about Arafat's release, Saadat, the four assassins and a suspected weapons smuggler were transferred May 1 to the West Bank town of Jericho, where they are being held under British and U.S. supervision.
The four Zeevi assassins were convicted by a makeshift court in Arafat's headquarters in March, and were given sentences ranging from one to 18 years. Saadat was never charged or tried.
A Palestinian security court in Gaza City ordered Saadat's release on Monday, his lawyer, Raji Sourani, said. When the decision was announced, dozens of PFLP supporters outside the court cheered.
``Now we have to see whether the Palestinian Authority will implement this decision,'' Sourani said. The lawyer noted that last month Arafat signed legislation ensuring the independence of the judiciary. In the past, the Palestinian leader frequently ignored court rulings.