November 4, 2019 / 1:37 PM / 9 days ago

Jordan says two citizens held in Israel to return 'before end of week'

AMMAN (Reuters) - Israel will soon release two Jordanians whose months-long detention without charge, after crossing into the occupied West Bank, had led Jordan to recall its ambassador, the two countries said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi gestures during a joint news conference with German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer in Amman, Jordan, August 19, 2019. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed/File Photo

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the handover was agreed after talks between Israeli and Jordanian security chiefs. It said Jordan’s ambassador, who was recalled on Tuesday, would return to his post “in the coming days”.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the two citizens, Hiba Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri, would return to Jordan “before the end of the week”.

Jordan said they been illegally arrested without charge a few months ago. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, said last week the two were suspected of security offences, without being more specific.

Safadi said on Twitter the Jordanian government “pursued the case from the start under direct instructions from His Majesty King Abdullah to take all necessary steps to release them whatever that may cost”, but gave no further details.

Labadi, 24, was arrested in August after crossing to the West Bank to attend a family wedding. She subsequently went on a hunger strike and was hospitalized after her health deteriorated.

Miri, 29, was arrested last September after he also crossed into the West Bank to visit relatives.

Safadi said last month he held the Israeli government responsible for the lives of the two, adding that their health had severely deteriorated and warned the kingdom could escalate its actions if they were not released.

Israel mainly uses “administrative detention”, or imprisonment without trial, against Palestinians suspected of anti-Israeli activities.

It says the measure, which human rights groups have condemned, is aimed at preventing further violence in cases where there is insufficient evidence to prosecute or where court proceedings could expose the identity of secret informants.

In announcing the decision to release Labadi and Miri, the Israeli statement said Israel viewed its relations with Jordan as “a cornerstone of stability in the Middle East”. The two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Jon Boyle, Alison Williams and Philippa Fletcher

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