The High Court of Justice on Sunday heard the Almagor Terror Victims Association
petition to block the government’s recent decision to release 104 of the worst
Palestinian prisoners with “blood on their hands,” starting with a first round
of releases on Tuesday.
The highly controversial prisoner release was
decided on recently by the government as part of a last goodwill gesture
required for restarting the peace process with the Palestinians for the first
time in years, which, if continued, will result in three further releases over
the next nine months.
At a press conference right before the hearing,
Almagor head Meir Indor, proclaiming his opposition to the release said, “What
kind of justice is this? The High Court should tell America and the Palestinians
that there are judges in Jerusalem!” The victims’ families worked hard to try to
convince the court that there were unique reasons for blocking this release
deal, though the court has refrained over and over again from intervening to
block similar deals in the past.
“With Gilad Schalit, we got him back.
Here, we are releasing prisoners with blood on their hands and receiving nothing
in return,” attorney Naftali Wurzburger told the High Court during the
Pressed on whether he really had any legal arguments to make or
whether his appeal was only emotional, Wurzburger responded that “legal and
moral issues cannot be separated in a decision of such monumental
Wurzburger also tried, likely in vain in light of the judges
negative responses, to convince the court that the moral aspects of the issue
removed it from being a sovereign statecraft issue which the executive branch
could decide without judicial oversight.
Indor also spoke briefly during
the hearing, with his voice rising steadily, saying, “After losing on 25
petitions, people ask will the court ever change? I still believe you can change
with the changing situation. We want to strengthen the court. It is good
for the court to be just. The courts said to put a person in jail, and this
court should defend that ruling.”
The state responded telling the court
that there was no precedent for it to interfere with government decisions to
release terrorist-prisoners – even with blood on their hands.
show that the deal was balanced and well conceived, the state also added that
“if the peace process did not go well, future planned prisoner releases will be
The state also emphasized that it had promptly provided all
information about the prisoners being released to those victims’ families who
had made official requests to the Justice Ministry.
It added that it
could not be accused of failing to provide the information, noting that Almagor
was already displaying some of the information on its website.
to show that it had carefully debated and weighed its options before deciding to
move forward with the deal, the state said: “There was a debate on the issue of
the deal for several hours, ministers asked questions, the prime minister said
it was a hard decision and some even voted against it.”
The hearing ended
with the three justices hastily shuffling out of the room to the angry jeers and
shouts of the victims’ families.
Earlier in the day and leading up to the
noon showdown before the High Court, the Almagor association held a protest and
march on Mount Herzl against the release of the Palestinian
Beginning around 10 a.m., the protesters began marching,
carrying black flags and banners.
The protests continued at the memorial
for terror victims and then moved on to the High Court itself, where a press
conference of victims’ families addressed the assembled media.
killers of Ron Kehrmann and Yossi Tzur’s children were released during the
Schalit deal, but they came to support the current families petitioning the
Ron Kehrmann spoke to the media on behalf of his murdered daughter
Tal, stating that the prisoners due to be released are “not national icons. They
killed babies, civilians on buses and in restaurants.”
He added, “This is
not the way to make peace. This is not justice.”
Yossi Tzur spoke on
behalf of his murdered son Assaf, saying that his son’s murderer was “sentenced
to 17 life terms,” but he had been “released after only eight years.”
a begging voice he called out to the court and the government, “Stop
Members of the Fineberg family spoke of their dead relative Ian, who
was killed 20 years ago while trying to build an EU-sponsored factory in Gaza to
bring jobs to Gazans and further peace.
The family said that one nearby
Palestinian had tried to stop the factory security guard who murdered Ian by
saying “Don’t kill him, he is one of ours,” but the murderer killed him
Other victims also spoke up, shouting “Our dead are crying out!”
and “Stop this injustice!” Also on Sunday, another group, the Organization for
Victims of Terror, said that it had sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu two weeks ago asking questions about the release and had never
received an answer.
A spokesman said that, putting aside whether the deal
was justified, many members of the organization felt that Netanyahu and the
government were avoiding them, and they first found out about the deal from the
media, rather than the state having the sensitivity to pre-inform them.
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