Nissim Nasser
Photo: Jeremy Feldman

Lebanese prisoner Nissim Nasser released

After serving six years in prison for espionage, Nasser sent back to Lebanon, in move which may be part of prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah

Lebanese prisoner Nissim Nasser was released Sunday morning from the Nitzan Prison in Ramallah. He was accompanied by Immigration Police officers to the Rosh Hanikra crossing point, where he was returned to Lebanon.


Nasser is believed to have been released as part of a future prisoner swap deal with Hizbullah, which would include the return of kidnapped Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser and the release of six Lebanese prisoners, including murdered Samir Kuntar.


"I am happy he is being released and I hope that it has to do with a future deal. He told me he is very happy to return to Lebanon and is expected to receive a warm welcome there," Nasser's lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan, said as she arrived at the crossing point.


"He leaves behind two daughters who Israeli citizens, and this is a tragedy. He himself is not talking about a deal, but I find it hard to believe that the State of Israel would release him so easily otherwise," she added.


Red Cross spokeswoman Yael Segev-Eytan said, "Ever since he conceded his Israeli citizenship about four years ago, the Red Cross had visited Nasser in prison on a permanent basis. On Wednesday we received the news that he was returning to Lebanon.


"This procedure is being held with Nasser's approval, with the approval of the Lebanese and Israeli authorities, and UNIFIL has been informed of it. The Red Cross is not involved in the negotiations and we are not updated on any deals until they are officially finalized. We have yet to be informed of a finalized deal."


Nasser is a former Jew who converted to Islam, moved to Israel from Lebanon and was sentenced to six years in prison for espionage in 2002.


His prison term, mostly spend at Hasharon Prison, has recently ended, but the security establishment considered holding onto him – perhaps as a bargaining chip in the negotiations – and he has been held under administrative arrest at the Nitzan Detention Center.


Nasser conceded his Israeli citizenship and was transferred to Lebanon in what seemed to be a sign of progress in the deal for the return of the Israeli soldiers kidnapped in July 2006.


Upon his return to Lebanon, he was expected to be received by a Hizbullah delegation, as well as his parents, relatives, residents and movement supporters. Hizbullah members set up a central stage in the area and hang flags of the organizations.


"We will receive him with a great celebration, out of our loyalty to those who were loyal to the homeland and resistance," a Hizbullah official told the al-Manar network. "Our heart is open to these resistance heroes. This is a victory for every Lebanese citizen."


Hagai Einav contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 06.01.08, 09:16
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