NEWS

Exiled Palestinians ‘free men’

The two young Palestinians who on Wednesday began their exile in Greece have not been charged with any terrorist act and will live a «normal and free life» in Greece, the Palestinian ambassador told reporters yesterday. He also expressed the conviction that they will be in exile temporarily. At a news conference presenting two of the 13 who were besieged by Israeli forces in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity for 39 days, Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah said, «There are no charges against any of the 13 Palestinians.» Israel says the 13 are terrorists. But the EU, whose members agreed to offer the men refuge, says they are accused of nothing by the EU. «For this reason, foreign officials, including (Prime Minister Costas) Simitis, have said that they will be living freely in the host countries. They are free people in a free country,» Abdullah said. He added that their exile is not permanent and that they will be allowed to return to their homes after a year. «The EU has made an agreement that their exile will be temporary,» Abdullah said. «They will never be extradited to Israel.» The two Palestinians are Mohammed Muhaneh, 21, a member of the Palestinian intelligence service, and Mamdoukh Wardiyan, 22, an alleged member of the militant group Hamas. Regarding security, Abdullah noted that this was the responsibility of the Greek government. «We don’t intervene in any decision made by the Greek government on their safety,» he said. «We are confident that Greece will take all necessary measures.» The Palestinian envoy underlined, though, that the two are not free to travel abroad, but that members of their families will soon be visiting them. Both Muhaneh and Wardiyan admitted that they were surprised to see the Israeli Defense Forces entering the center of the city, as well as its scale.