Palestinians say Clinton signed amnesty for Abbas

Monday, April 21, 2003

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority has launched a campaign for the release of a Palestinian terrorist captured in Iraq.

PA Local Authorities Minister Saeb Erekat said the arrest of Abul Abbas, head of the Palestine Liberation Front, violates the 1995 accord with Israel that granted amnesty for all Palestinian insurgents. Erekat said the agreement was also signed by then-President Bill Clinton.

"The Palestinian-Israeli interim agreement signed on September 28, 1995 stated that members of the Palestine Liberation Organization must not be detained or tried for matters they committed before the Oslo peace accord of September 13, 1993," Erekat said. "This interim agreement was signed on the U.S. side by President Clinton and his secretary of state, Warren Christopher."

The PA said the U.S. capture of Mohammed Abul Abbas was illegal and that he had never been sought by American authorities, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials asserted that the State Department had determined in the late 1990s that it did not have grounds to seek Abul Abbas's extradition from the Gaza Strip.

PA officials said Israel had not sought the extradition of Abul Abbas during his stay in the Gaza Strip in 1998. They cited a determination by Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein that Abbas does not pose a threat to Israeli security.

The United States has denied that Abul Abbas was granted immunity from prosecution. U.S. officials did say that the State Department was examining options regarding the PLF leader. So far, they said, the State Department has contacted Italy, which issued a warrant for his arrest.

"We are currently looking at a variety of options to ensure he's brought to justice," State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said. "The United States believes that all terrorists should be brought to justice for their crimes, so obviously, this will be a matter of discussion with the government of Italy."

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