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Palestinians to hold suspect in arms plot for safety

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- The Palestinian High Court ordered the release Tuesday of Fuad Shubaki, the former Palestinian finance chief Israel accuses of bankrolling a Red Sea arms shipment it intercepted in January.

Palestinian Cabinet member Saeb Erakat confirmed the court ruling but said the Palestinian Authority will not release Shubaki because of fears that Israel might abduct or harm him in some way.

Shubaki is being held in a jail in Jericho. He was sent there under the watch of American and British wardens in May along with five other Palestinians as part of a deal that ended Israel's 34-day siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah.

Arafat fired Shubaki in January after Israeli officials linked him to an attempt to smuggle 50 tons of arms from Iran to the Palestinian Authority aboard the freighter Karine-A. The Israeli military later said documents seized in an April raid on Arafat's compound show Shubaki conducted "business as usual" after his involvement in the Karine-A affair was disclosed.

Arafat has maintained that he was not involved in the Karine-A shipment. The United States has said evidence points to Palestinian Authority involvement.

Four of the other five men being held with Shubaki have been convicted in a Palestinian Authority court in the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in October of 2001.

Also being held is Ahmed Sa'adat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. His group claimed responsibility for Ze'evi's assassination.

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