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Palestinians to resume executions of prisoners
15 executions of death-row prisoners are due to be carried out by end of March for first time since August 2002.
The Palestinian Authority is poised to resume executions of prisoners on death row for the first time since August 2002, with 15 due to be carried out by the end of the month, officials said Thursday.
Fifteen prisoners currently on death row "will be executed later this month", Palestinian military courts chief Saeb al-Qidwa said.
The top Palestinian Muslim cleric, Jerusalem mufti Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, said he was reviewing the files of several death row inmates at the request of Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.
"I am looking at these files to ensure the fairness, under (Islamic) sharia law, of the sentences handed down by the courts," he said adding that no execution would go ahead without a final greenlight from Abbas, who has the power to commute a death sentence to life imprisonment.
The last time the Palestinians carried out a death sentence was in August 2002, when Bashir Atari, 21, was executed by firing squad for cutting the throats of two women.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, nine death sentences have been carried out since the formation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 out of a total of 70 imposed by the courts.
"The mufti will give the files to the president and if he ratifies them, the executions will take place later this month," Qidwa said.
In carrying out these executions, the Palestinian Authority "will be sending a firm signal to the population which will contribute to the reestablishment of security," he said.
"We need a radical solution to the current security chaos."
Qidwa said Sheikh Sabri was examining the cases of 51 prisoners condemned to death by the courts since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994.
The majority were handed down by the Palestinian security court, whose sentences cannot be appealed.
Two of them were convicted of collaborating with Israel, while the rest were found guilty of common crimes.
The first executions took place in August 1998, when two policemen convicted of murder were executed by firing squad.
Resort to the death penalty, especially the execution of two Palestinian collaborators in January 2001, has sparked a chorus of criticism from Europe and domestic human rights watchdogs.
In a new letter seen by AFP Thursday, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights appealed to Abbas "not to sign the execution orders and to stop the application of this cruel punishment which constitutes a flagrant violation of human rights".
Calling for the abolition of the death penalty, the rights watchdog said its use in the Palestinian territories "tarnishes the image of the Palestinian people in the eyes of the world".
Since the start of the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in September 2000, dozens of Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel have been summarily murdered by militants.
Palestinian human rights organisations have condemned the extra-judicial killings and demanded that suspected collaborators be prosecuted through the courts.