Last updated: 4 August, 2011

Israel to free Hamas leader in mass prisoner release

Israel is to free 770 Israeli and Palestinian prisoners, including a founder of the Islamist movement Hamas, due to overcrowding, a prison services spokeswoman told AFP on Thursday.

Sivan Weizman said that all of the prisoners, among them 200 Palestinians, had almost completed their sentences.

The prisoners, who were expected to be freed today, include Hassan Yusef, a West Bank leader of the Hamas movement, who had six weeks remaining of a six-year term for “membership of a terrorist organisation.”

“Hassan Yusef is being freed today,” Weizman said.

Deputy Palestinian prisoners minister Ziad Abu Ain told AFP the Palestinians were expecting the release of “around 70 prisoners who have finished their terms of Israeli jails” but had no additional details.

According to figures released by Israeli rights group B’tselem in April, there are 5,380 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, 217 of whom were under 18.