NEWS BRIEFS

Held Without Trial

Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority has detained at least 117 suspects without trial for more than a year, according to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Of the 117 named by the group in its Monitor publication, some have been held for more than three years. Detainees are suspected either of "collaborating" with Israel (including selling land to Jews), political crimes or common crimes. None has been charged or appeared in court. Most have no legal representation. Meanwhile a Gaza professor, Fathi Ahmed Subuh, has been in PA detention for more than a month, after he set exam questions for his students which raised the issue of PA corruption. The New York Times reported (Aug 16): "He has yet to be formally charged with anything, and although 14 soldiers raided his house to seize the exam books, the branch of the security services that grabbed him hints darkly that he will be accused of spying for Israel and sexually harassing his students." PA human rights violations are among the issues the US Congress has cited to back its decisions to withhold funds from the PA.

PA Conscription Violates Oslo

On August 9, the Palestinian Authority proposed a "national service" law requiring one year of public service for high school graduates, including police work in "public order or traffic control". Israel branded the idea a camouflage for an army draft", and thus a serious violation of the Oslo accords. The proposal is to be amended to include weapons training for youth to "defend national institutions". This follows reports of Palestinian youths marching in military uniforms in recent demonstrations throughout the self-rule areas. And PA television has aired interviews of teens at summer camps enthusiastically acknowledging training to shoot, drill and perform other military skills.

UN map an ace for Israel?

Officials in PM Binyamin Netanyahu's office have found an official 1947 UN map of Jerusalem which includes Bethlehem, Ram'Allah and Abu-Dis within the boundaries of the city. Ma'ariv reports (August 22) that the map "represents international confirmation that the boundaries of Jerusalem include a broad periphery around it. Israel intends to present the map in the final-status talks and, based on it, propose to establish the Palestinian governmental centre in one of Jerusalem's satellite locations--Ram'Allah, Bethlehem, or Abu-Dis." When the map was drawn in 1947, Jerusalem was slated to become an international enclave, controlled neither by Israel nor an Arab entity. The Palestinian Authority, backed by most world governments, expects to have the capital of a future independent state in Jerusalem.

PA Lockerbie Offer

The Palestinian Authority has offered to host a trial of two Libyan agents accused by the US of involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am airliner 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Yasser Arafat's deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, held talks with Libyan officials recently, offering to help secure a peaceful solution to the crisis (Al-Quds, Aug 18). Libya's refusal to hand over the two to face a US court has prompted UN sanctions. The PA offer involved the extradition of the two to stand trial in the PA-controlled area before judges whose nationality would be decided. It's not clear how Libya has responded, but reports say the US is not enthusiastic. On July 7, German prosecutors interviewed a former top Iranian intelligence operative, Abolghasem Mesbahi, about his claims that Iran was behind the outrage, which cost 270 lives. He said Iran's leaders had asked Libya and Palestinian groups for help in carrying out the attack, to avenge an earlier accidental shooting down of an Iranian airliner by a US warship.


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