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Abbas orders release of Hamas woman prisoner

Palestinian president pardons prisoner as a "humanitarian gesture" after she admits preparing attacks on national institutions

AFP , Wednesday 19 Jan 2011
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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday ordered the release of a Hamas woman jailed over her alleged ties to a political murder plot, security sources said.

Abbas has "decided to free Tamam Abu Suud in response to her request to be released and pardoned," a Palestinian Authority security source told AFP.

Abu Suud was arrested in November in connection with what Abbas's security forces said was an alleged plot by the Islamist movement Hamas to assassinate the governor of Nablus. She was never charged.

"Her release was agreed after Abu Suud admitted preparing plans targeting Palestinian national institutions and leaders as part of a Hamas cell," the source said. She would walk free later on Wednesday.

Her release was a humanitarian gesture, he said, while warning Hamas "against the exploitation of Palestinian women and children to carry out its agenda which targets national interests and principles."

In November, Palestinian Authority officials said a number of suspects from Hamas had been arrested in connection with the plot, in a charge strongly denied by the rival faction which rules Gaza.

Hamas and Fatah are bitter political opponents who have carried out periodic arrests of each other's members, often holding detainees without charge or trial and routinely trading allegations of prisoner abuse.

Their ties have been tense for several years. But resentment boiled over after the Islamist group won elections in 2006 and, a year later, seized control of the Gaza Strip after deadly streetfighting with Fatah.

Since then, the Palestinian territories have been effectively split in two, with Abbas's rule confined to the West Bank. The parties held reconciliation talks last September and November but without making progress.

Relations were further frayed after the revelation in leaked US diplomatic cables that Fatah had urged Israel to attack Hamas in 2007.

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