Israel sentences Palestinian lawmaker over Hamas ties

Tue Dec 16, 2008 6:35pm GMT

JERUSALEM Dec 16 (Reuters) - An Israeli military court has sentenced the speaker of the Palestinian parliament to 36 months in prison for ties to Hamas, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

The decision could set the stage for speaker Aziz Dweik to be released in around eight months since he has already been in jail for more than 28 months.

Dweik's lawyer, Fadi al-Qawasmi, said Israeli prosecutors planned to appeal for a longer sentence. An Israeli military spokesman said Dweik also faced an additional two years probation.

Hamas described the sentence as purely political.

Hamas contends that Dweik should become Palestinian president after Jan. 9, when Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas's four-year-term expires. Abbas disputes this.

Israel seized Hamas parliamentarians, including Dweik, after militants in the Gaza Strip captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid in June 2006.

Israel considers the Islamist group a terrorist organisation. (Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Adam Entous; Editing by Diana Abdallah)



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