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Abie Nathan Brought Handcuffed to Court Hearing on His Sentence

Peace activist Abie Nathan, serving an 18-month prison sentence for meeting with Yasir Arafat and other leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization in June, was brought in handcuffs from Ma’asiyahu Prison to Tel Aviv Magistrates Court on Sunday for a resumption of his trial for earlier meetings he held with the PLO leader.

The usually ebullient Nathan seemed downcast as he heard the court state it must decide whether, in light of his latest violation, it should activate a suspended sentence he received for an alleged meeting with Arafat in 1989.

Nathan freely confessed to meeting Arafat in Tunis six months ago, in violation of the Israeli law against consorting with the enemy.

But he insists the earlier encounter was not illegal, because it occurred at a news conference attended by the general news media. He has appealed that conviction to the High Court of Justice.

The Magistrates Court will hold its next hearing on the suspended sentence on Jan. 10, by which time the High Court of Justice is expected to have ruled on Nathan’s appeal.

Nathan’s predicament has generated sympathy in some circles. Not only was he handcuffed like a common criminal but, it could be argued, he is serving time for doing nothing worse than Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and his aides have done by attending the Middle East peace conference in Madrid.

The Israeli leader faced a Palestinian delegation that acknowledged Arafat as its leader, admitted loyalty to the PLO and made no bones about getting its orders from Tunis.

Nathan, for his part, indicated he will not appeal for clemency to President Chaim Herzog. To do so, he says, would be to admit that talking to the enemy for the sake of peace is a criminal offense.

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