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Herzog Commutes Jail Sentences of 3 Jewish Underground Members

June 7, 1989
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Three West Bank Jewish settlers sentenced to life imprisonment in 1985 for fatally shooting four Palestinians and committing other crimes, had their sentences reduced to 10 years Monday by President Chaim Herzog.

It was the third time Herzog exercised his powers of clemency on behalf of the three. He drew angry criticism, especially from leftist circles, who consider the move incompatible with justice and with Herzog’s own condemnation of the recent vigilante tactics of some settlers.

Herzog said he acted on the recommendations of Justice Minister Dan Meridor of Likud and other legal experts.

But he made his final decision only after he was convinced that the three prisoners showed genuine remorse, presidential spokesman Giora Pordes said.

The three, Menachem Livni, Uzi Sharbaf and Shaul Nir, are the last of more than 20 convicted members of a Jewish terrorist underground group still in jail.

Herzog initially reduced their sentences from life to 24 years and more recently to 15 years.

The latest reduction makes it possible that the prisoners, now in their sixth year behind bars, could go free in two years, if a third of their new sentence is cut for good behavior.

Critics were quick to ask how Herzog can chastise settlers who take the law into their own hands now and act so generously toward those who did the same five years ago.


Left-wing parties were especially bitter. They called Herzog’s clemency “a great mistake” and recalled that only a year ago, the president was quoted as saying that the phenomenon of Jewish terrorism must be eradicated.

Knesset member Yossi Sarid of the Citizens Rights Movement said the “decision is especially wrong because the settlers community, far from regretful over what was done, is instead imitative.”

Elazar Granot, secretary-general of Mapam, expressed “fear that the president no longer respects his office.”

But the National Religious Party issued a statement praising “the worthy compassion shown to the prisoners’ families.” The prisoners are Orthodox Jews.

They received their life sentences in July 1985 after being found guilty of murder, attempted murder, illegal possession of weapons and membership in a terrorist organization.

The three attacked the Islamic College in Hebron with machine guns in 1984, killing four students and wounding more than 30 others.

They belonged to an underground made up almost entirely of West Bank settlers.

According to evidence presented at the trials, the group crippled two West Bank Arab mayors with car bombs in 1980, planted bombs in 16 Arab buses in East Jerusalem and tried to destroy Al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount.

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