Top Israel rabbi okays French clemency request
France's ambassador to Israel, Christophe Bigot, met Sunday with a senior rabbi to seek his approval for the release of French-Palestinian convicted of trying to assassinate the religious leader.
Bigot met with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, along with interior minister and Shas chief Eli Yishai, to discuss the early release of Salah Hamuri.
"Yosef confirmed to me that he does not oppose his release," Bigot said after the surprise meeting.
Bigot added that he met earlier on Sunday with Hamuri to inform him "of France's efforts to speed up his release."
Born in Jerusalem to a French mother and a Palestinian father, 26-year-old Hamuri was arrested on March 13, 2005 and convicted by an Israeli military tribunal on charges of having planned to assassinate Yosef.
He was sentenced to seven years in prison, but has always denied the charges against him.
France is seeking to have Hamuri, whose term ends in March 2012, released before the end of this year along with a second batch of Palestinian prisoners being freed under a prisoner exchange deal.
The deal saw Israel agree to release 1,027 Palestinians in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was freed in October along with a first group of 477 Palestinians.
After Shalit's release, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he hoped that Hamuri would be included in the second phase of the prisoner exchange.
"I hope that he will be part of the second phase of releases," he said, adding that France had "urged" Israeli authorities to include Hamuri and noted that as a French citizen he had "the right to the protection and attention of the government of the French republic."
© 2011 AFP