Foreign Minister Wants Pardon For Jewish UndergroundAP , Associated Press
Jul. 11, 1985 8:14 PM ET
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Thursday he would seek pardons for 25 Jews convicted in a series of terrorist attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River.
A Shamir aide quoted him as telling a rightist Jewish youth movement that members of the Jewish underground were ''excellent, good people who have erred in their path and actions, and they have to be given an opportunity to change their ways so that they will reject this dangerous, illegal path.''
Shamir's remarks were the first public reaction by a member of Prime Minister Shimon Peres' coalition government to the guilty verdicts issued Wednesday for 15 underground members. Ten others were convicted earlier.
''This phenomenon can be destroyed by means of granting clemency and we will ask that they be given clemency,'' Shamir told members of the Betar youth movement. His remarks were quoted to The Associated Press by his political aide, Yossi Ahimeir.
Shamir, leader of the right-wing Likud Bloc, has said previously that the Jewish underground defendants should be given clemency.
Three of the 15 Israelis convicted Wednesday were found guilty of murder in the 1983 machine gun and grenade attack that killed three Palestinian students and wounded 33 others at the Islamic University in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The other 12 were convicted of lesser charges, including attempted murder, membership in a terrorist organization and illegal possesion of weapons.
Sentencing was expected next week.
The government can recommend pardons or clemency, but only President Chaim Herzog has the power to grant them. Israel Radio quoted Herzog as saying he would review any pardon request without special considerations.
Shamir said that although he was a member of an anti-British terror ring before Israel's independence, ''I will never agree to the existence of any underground and no one has the right to take the law into his own hands in our state.''
Ahimeir said Shamir ''is concerned that cold legal procedures may punish'' the underground without deterring others from vengeance attacks against Palestinians.
The anti-Arab terrorist ring has received widespread sympathy in Israeli since the 25 men, mostly West Bank settlers, were arrested in April 1984 following a thwarted attempt to bomb Palestinian buses. Calls for clemency gathered momentum after Israel freed 1,150 Arab prisoners in exchange for three Israeli prisoners of war on May 20.
Meanwhile, Yossi Sarid, a leftist member of Parliament from the Citizens Rights Movement, protested to police about news reports that some of those convicted in the Jewish underground case were joining a basketball team that entitled them to leave jail at least once a week.
Noam Arnon, a spokesman for the Gush Emunim settlement movement, confirmed that six of the underground defendants were joining a West Bank settlers' team that plays in a minor Israeli league.
Shimon Malka, spokesman for the prison services, was said by his staff to be unavailable for comment despite several telephone calls.