Israeli prisoner dies in New Zealand

An Israeli prisoner who had been on life support since attempting suicide has died in a New Zealand hospital, prison officials said Thursday.

Prison inmate Aviv Atias, who was serving an 8 1/2 year term for drug importing, reportedly tried to take his own life last month. The Department of Corrections said 28-year-old Atias died Thursday from what appeared to be natural causes.

Public Prisons Service general manager Phil McCarthy said the department's inspectorate will investigate Atias's death and a coroner's inquest will also be held. Earlier, the Howard League for Penal Reform - a private group seeking prison reform - had criticized the prisons' Parole Board for refusing to release Atias on compassionate grounds so his family could take him back to Israel to die.

Justice Minister Phil Goff said he could see no reason why Atias should not have been allowed to return home to Israel. Goff said he was forbidden by law from interfering in the Parole Board's decision not to grant Atias a compassionate release, AP reports.

А. А.