Prisoners Slated for Release Were Told They're Staying in Prison

Most of the Palestinian prisoners that Israel plans to release were about to complete their term, Palestinian Authority officials handling the release said.

As officials suspected, some 70 percent of the prisoners slated for release were sentenced during the intifada to short prison terms and were to be released within two months. The group includes about 120 administrative detainees sentenced to up to three years. Only two or three of the inmates have spent more than two years in jail.

The partial list provided to the PA does not include inmates of the Shin Bet prisons, whose names and number are not yet known. Three of the better-known prisoners to be released were scheduled to end their prison terms in 2007 or 2008.

This breakdown was given by the prisoners themselves based on information they gathered at IDF prison facilities. The analysis enabled the prisoners' families and representatives to reduce their expectations considerably.

Several prisoners were told they would be released, and then were informed a few days later that their names no longer appeared on the list.

Ketziot prison management announced Wednesday who would be released. An administrative detainee who has been held without charges, or facing a trial, for almost three years was on the list. He informed his family of his expected release that very day, and his children started preparing for his arrival, his wife said yesterday. They arranged his clothes, which had been stored in packages in a closet since his arrest, "because administrative detention has no end." They tidied the house, bought candy and drew welcome back posters.

He called again Friday and asked his wife to speak somewhere where the kids could not hear her. He told her his name had been removed from the list. The younger son, aged 10, seeing his mother move away, followed her and understood from her tone that his father would not be coming home. He had a nervous breakdown, the mother said. She said that on previous occasions, when the detention order was not renewed, the family thought he was coming out at the end of the six-month custody, but at the last moment, the order was always renewed.

At least seven prisoners' names were erased from the list after they were informed of their imminent release. They envied fellow prisoners whose names were not listed from the outset and therefore were spared disappointment.

The wife of Marwan Barghouti and mother of Qassam Barghouti, Fadwa Barghouti, was in for a big disappointment as well. Her oldest son was due to be released as a special gesture to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. She visited her husband at the Be'er Sheva prison where he is being held, and both spoke with joy about their son's early release. In the afternoon, on her way back to Ramallah, friends called to tell her they heard on the news that Qassam would not be released. Fadwa Barghouti was too disappointed to speak to journalists yesterday.