7 Of 13 Exiled Palestinians From Bethlehem Siege Arrive In Spain

MADRID (SPAIN), MAY 22, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Seven of the 13 exiled Palestinians involved in the Bethlehem siege have reached Madrid, as decided upon by the European Union, reports Spanish news agency Efe.

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The Palestinians, their names under wraps by order of the Spanish government, arrived on a Spanish military aircraft from Greece, said Foreign Minister Josep Pique, Associated Press agency reported.

The Palestinians´ flight left earlier in the day from Cyprus, where they had been staying since May 10 while the EU worked out the details of what to do with them.

The European Union agreed on Tuesday to distribute 12 among six member nations. The 13th will remain in Cyprus until an EU country can be found to take him in.

Three Palestinians will remain in Spain, while two will go on from Madrid to Ireland, one will go to Belgium and the other to Portugal in separate flights in the next few days. Another three were being taken from Cyprus to Italy on a separate flight and two were dropped off in Greece on the way to Spain.

Earlier Wednesday, Pique said the three Palestinians coming to Spain have accepted the police surveillance. “They will have freedom of movement and police control, which they have accepted voluntarily,” Josep Pique told the private TV station Antena 3.

Pique said Spaniards have nothing to worry about while the Palestinians are in Spain, saying: “We know who they are and we´re going to control them.”

Pique explained that the Palestinians, classified as terrorists by Israel, are being allowed to stay temporarily in Spain and other host countries on humanitarian grounds. Their status will be as displaced people, he said. “The residence permit is valid for a year, after that we´ll have to revise it,” Pique added.

The Foreign Minister said none of the men face arrest in their host countries. “There is no claim against them,” Pique said, adding that they will have their families join them in the near future.

The Spanish Red Cross said it is receiving the three Palestinians assigned to Spain at its centers and would find a “secure and peaceful” place for them to stay.

A Red Cross spokeswoman said they will be provided with food, lodging and health care, and offered Spanish language lessons. The government and Red Cross have refused to identify the exiles by name.

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