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Copyright 1990

OCTOBER 5 1995

HEADLINE: Syria urged to free hundreds of Palestinians

BYLINE: Khaled Abu Toameh


Human rights groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have started campaigning for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Syrian jails, many of whom have been held for years without trial.

Several prisoners were recently released and returned home. They have helped many Palestinians confirm what happened to family members who traveled to Syria, often to study, and disappeared-in some cases 20 years ago. Syria refused permission over the years for the for the prisoners to receive visits; in most cases, they even denied holding them.

Issa Muhaizeh, 33, returned to the West Bank recently after eight years in Syrian jails, returned to the West Bank recently after eight years in Syria, and says that to this day he doesn'tknow what the charges were against him. But most prisoners, he says, were arrested because of alleged support for Yasser Arafat. Some are accused of spying for the PLO. Others have been questioned about ties to Iraq, or Communist parties in the Arab world. Muhaizeh describes prison conditions as "horrible," and he was tortured.

Jamila al-Batsh, from East Jerusalem, was released a few months ago from a Syrian jail where she had spent the last 12 years. She, too, says she was tortured. Another released prisoner said he saw 10 Palestinians executed in Tadmor prison last year. Officials said this was "a solution for overcrowding", the ex prisoner recalls.

Ibrahim Jallad, of the Tul Karm-based Palestinian Institute for the Wounded, is spearheading the campaignfor the prisoners release. "I feel ashamed,"he told The Jerusalem Report, "that at a time when we are fighting for the release of our security prisoners in Israel, hundreds of our brothers are being tortured and killed at the hands of the Syrian regime."

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