Jubilee could be good year for those held in Israels jails

JERUSALEM — Israel President Ezer Weizman will grant individual pardons during the jubilee year, but there will be no legislation for a general amnesty.

Moreover, presidential pardons will be given only to those who have already been convicted, not to those who are still being tried.

This was decided at a meeting Sunday attended by Weizman and representatives of the government, the IDF and the General Security Service.

"There will be many more — and there should be many more — pardons because we have to mark the jubilee year by showing mercy," Weizman said.

He said that all types of convicts — including murderers, rapists, and drug and security offenders — would be eligible to request pardons, which would be granted on the basis of the president's powers under the law.

"Arabs will not be discriminated against," Weizman added.

It is not possible to know in advance how many prisoners will be freed, Weizman said. "The number will depend on the criteria," he said. "It will be bigger than in any other year. This is not a matter of mathematics or of physics."

There are currently some 6,300 prisoners in the country's jails.

On average, the president grants some 400 pardons a year, "but most of these are the cancellation of fines or police records and other minor offenses. There are only some 30 or 40 serious offenses included," said presidential bureau chief Arye Shumer.

Meanwhile, a meeting is to be held with Finance Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman to arrange a special budget to pay the experts who will evaluate the files of prisoners who are expected to ask for pardons.

Among the suggestions to be raised are the possibility of extending time off for good behavior (normally granted after two-thirds of the sentence is served) and the erasure of criminal records.