Wednesday, Jun 07, 2017
Ramallah: Payment of salaries to nearly 300 Palestinian prisoners and released inmates have been suspended by the Finance Ministry of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in a move seen as capitulating to Israeli and American demands.
Eisa Qaraqei, who heads the Higher National Commission of Prisoners and Detainees’ Affairs, has demanded an explanation from the ministry.
Qaraqei said the ministry had suspended payments to 277 Palestinian prisoners and former inmates without informing the commission.
The shelving of payments came just days after 1,800 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails scored a victory after their 41-day hunger strike forced Israel to meet their demands. Any Palestinian serving time of more than five years in an Israeli jail is given a permanent 2,000-shekel annual salary.
The payment increases the longer a prisoner spends behind bars.
A prisoner who serves more than 20 years gets the same salary as a ministry undersecretary or a major general in the security forces.
The Israeli regime has long been agitated by the salary payments and has been putting massive pressure on the Palestinian National Authority to halt the practice.
Observers privy to official information say the Israeli government has made the suspension of the prisoners’ salaries as a key condition for the resumption of stalled peace talks.
In September 2014, months after the formation of the Palestinian consensus government, the PNA replaced its Prisoners’ Affairs Ministry with a commission reporting directly to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
Abolition of the ministry has drawn sharp criticism from the Palestinian public, political factions and families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
The decision was taken at the request of Israel and Western donor countries, who take a strong stand against funding prisoners and their families.
Abolishing the ministry and turning it into a PLO-associated commission was seen as an attempt by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to appease Israel and the Western donors but it has not worked.
It was assumed the Palestinian prisoners and their families would receive their salaries from the PLO, which is not funded by the international donors and operates independently from the PNA government. The PNA is an organ of the PLO that is now fully funded by the PNA.
A senior official from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said the suspension of inmates’ salaries was the initial step to gradually cancel payments to all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and former inmates.
Speaking to Gulf News, the official said such payments were ‘sacred’ and must be preserved.
By Nasouh Nazzal Correspondent
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