JERUSALEM (Oct. 23)
Sami Esmail, a 24-year-old Michigan State University student who was arrested last December on charges of aiding the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was paroled last Friday after serving 10 months of a 15-month prison term. According to reports, the United States had applied “heavy pressure” to get him released and U.S. diplomats had appeared before the parole board to get his sentence reduced.
His release at this time might be interpreted, according to observers, as a gesture by Israel linked to the peace treaty negotiations in Washington be-between Israel and Egypt and the U.S. efforts to make progress toward the establishment of autonomy on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The U.S. reportedly had been pressuring Israel for some days to announce unilateral “gestures” regarding the West Bank in order to soften hostility there to the Camp David accords.
Esmail appeared relaxed and smiling when he was put on an EI AI plane at Ben Gurion Airport last Friday for his return to the U.S. Born in Brooklyn of Palestinian parents, he was arrested last December when he arrived to visit his dying father in Ramallah. At the time of his arrest he was also charged with undergoing terrorist training in Libya in 1976.