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Court Orders Arafat To Release University Students

August 18, 1996

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Palestinian Supreme Court ordered Yasser Arafat’s government on Sunday to release 10 university students jailed without charge since March.

The Palestinian attorney general, meanwhile, accused human rights groups of conducting ``an organized campaign″ against Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.

The students from Ramallah’s Bir-Zeit University were jailed in a roundup of about 900 Islamic militants conducted at Israel’s urging after four suicide bombings killed 63 people inside Israel in February and March.

About 300 suspected militants remain in Palestinian prisons, but only about 50 of them have been charged.

Palestinian lawyers filed an appeal in June saying the students’ continued detention violated Palestinian law and normal procedures of due process.

Attorney Khader Shkirat said he expected the students to be released late Sunday night. No confirmation was immediately available from the Palestinian Authority.

Criticism of Arafat’s human rights record, particularly the reported torture of prisoners in Palestinian jails, has been growing both at home and abroad.

At least seven Palestinians have died in custody since the start of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in May 1994, and there have been allegations that two recent prisoner deaths attributed to suicide were actually the result of torture.

A Palestinian human rights activist, Mohammed Dahman, was arrested Aug. 12 after suggesting that detainee Nahid Dahalan, who was found dead hours after being interrogated by security forces, might have been tortured.

Palestinian Attorney General Khaled Kidreh said Dahalan committed suicide, and said Dahman was arrested for publicizing false accusations against the Palestinian Authority.

Kidreh, in an interview published Sunday in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam, said human rights groups were targeting Arafat’s government with rumors, lies and exaggeration.

``It is a real organized campaign against the Palestinian Authority,″ he said, adding that the authority welcomed constructive criticism but not actions aimed at destroying ``the Palestinian dream.″

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights joined other Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups on Sunday in appealing for Dahman’s immediate release.

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