I have the highest regard and respect for human rights activists - Palestinian and otherwise. My staff and I follow clear and strict instructions in this respect from our leader, President Arafat.
May I point out that I myself have suffered a great deal, and for a long time, in prisons under occupation, and I have special reasons to be grateful for the assistance I was given by human rights activists. My views on this subject, and on what is happening here in the sphere of human rights, were expressed in an interview in the Arabic newspaper al-Hayat, published in London on the same day as your despatch appeared.
Allow me please to emphasise the simple fact that we here promptly and actively investigate all reports about human rights abuses, and it is a matter of record that the Palestinian Authority has meted out severe punishment to culprits, irrespective of status or rank.
The fact remains, however, that we are a new administration functioning in extremely difficult circumstances. This is not an excuse for wrongdoing - it merely explains the context in which some abhorrent and regrettable acts have been committed.
We are most grateful to human rights activists for helping the Palestinian people. We wish, at all levels, to co-operate in eradicating abuses and in improving and normalising life for our people in line with the highest standards of human rights principles.
Palestinian National Authority