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Under pressure, Palestinian Authority suspends funds to Prisoners’ Club

Palestinian leadership believed to have come under US and Israeli massive pressure

Gulf News

Ramallah: The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has suspended all of its funding for the Palestinian Prisoner Club (PPC) in a move expected to spark a huge outcry in Palestinian society.

The measure is seen as a ploy to shut down the 11 Prisoner Club branches in West Bank cities as well as its Ramallah headquarters.

A senior official from the PPC told Gulf News that the PNA will no longer pay fees of lawyers hired by the Prisoner Club to represent Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue — the PPC has been given strict instructions to avoid talking to the media — said operational budgets of the various PPC branches have also been suspended, including salaries of their 60 employees.

These men and women are all freed prisoners.

The Prisoner Club headquarters and PPC chairman Qadoura Fares were officially informed of the PNA decision on Sunday.

The official said the PNA had caved in to US and Israeli demands to stamp out of any organisation that represented the prisoners and their families.

The official said families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails could not afford to cover lawyers’ fees on their own, so the new PNA action would deprive the prisoners of legal representation. He added that the majority of Prisoner Club branches, which leased their premises, would be left unable to pay their rent. The official said the PPC would initiate a dialogue with the Palestinian cabinet in a bid to get the PNA decision reversed.

The Palestinian Prisoner Club was established in 1993 at the instigation of former iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and it became a main element of the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs, which allocated the PPC budget. The PNA dissolved the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs at the end of 2014 and replaced it with a commission reporting to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

The US administration and Israel have been constantly criticising PNA payments to prisoners and former inmates, claiming they encourage further violence. Two months ago, the PNA suspended the salaries of 272 current detainees and released prisoners, but reinstated the payments under massive public pressure.

More than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently in Israeli jails, including 60 women and about 300 minors.

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