Israel frees prominent Hamas figure from prison

RAMALLAH (Reuters) – Israel freed a former Hamas minister from prison on Sunday, an official from the Islamist group said.

The official said that Omar Abdel Razek, who was finance minister when Israel seized him in June 2006, had been freed by an Israeli judge.

“The judge believed it was enough, the period that he served in prison,” Nasser al-Shaer, a former Hamas minister, told Reuters of Razek’s release. “They have released him and he is on his way home.”

Israeli officials could not immediately confirm the release.

Some 40 Hamas officials, including former lawmakers, remain in Israel custody.

Razek was one of half a dozen Hamas lawmakers and ministers arrested around the same time on suspicion of membership of a terrorist organization, which is how Israel categorizes Hamas, a group that rejects Israel’s existence.

Those arrests came after gunmen captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid from Gaza in June 2006.

Israel’s cabinet voted earlier on Sunday to free five Palestinians in jail for minor offences as part of a swap deal with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon for the bodies of two soldiers killed in a July 2006 raid.

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