By RON FRIEDMAN
After consultation with state officials from the military censor, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said on Sunday that no agreement has been reached with Hamas on a prisoner exchange, and that the list of prisoners to be released would only be made public at the last minute.
"We were told that there is no deal yet. The negotiations are complicated; there are wide gaps between the sides and it may be that no deal will take place," said Beinisch.
"A list of the names of prisoners set to be released, along with a description of their crimes, will be published 48 hours before the release takes place," she added.
Family members of terror victims were free to contact the Justice Ministry and present their objections to a specific prisoner's release, she said.
Beinisch made the announcement during the hearing of a petition filed by three bereaved fathers who lost their children in a suicide bombing in Haifa, together with Almagor, the Terror Victims Association. In the petition, they demanded that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the government and the army censor publicize the proposed list of prisoners to be released in exchange for Gilad Schalit.
The state attorney explained to the court in response to the petition that he would be able to provide reasons for the necessity of censorship, but could only do so behind closed doors.
In his arguments, Naftali Werzberger, who represents the bereaved parents, said that 48 hours was too short a time to organize any substantial opposition.
"By the time we get the list, examine it and try to appeal it, the murderers will be on the buses and we will be facing an established fact," said Werzberger. "Sitting beside me are three fathers who lost those most precious to them in a horrific act of terrorism. Their children's killers may very well be on the list.
"These people, whose world collapsed around them, have the right to be a part of a procedure that involves the killers of their loved ones. How can you pardon the terrorists without the victims having a right to appeal?"
Yossi Mendellevich, who lost his son Yuval in 2003, said he and the other fathers do not recognize the government's right to hide information from the public based on security concerns.
"Israeli courts gave my son's murderers 17 life sentences for the brutal killing of 17 people. How will Israel's security be harmed if it's known whether they are part of the deal?" said Mendellevich. "The state, which failed to protect our children in the first place, is betraying us again if it releases their murderers."
While the court has not yet issued an official ruling, following the hearing the petitioners expressed disappointment with the court's decision.
"The state of Israel has done what it does best. It closed the doors and operated in darkness, without telling anyone. I think they have brutally ignored alternative options," said bereaved father Yossi Zur.
"I don't know what was said behind closed doors, but I'm sure that the state has a list of 400 or more prisoners, and the rest are in negotiations.
"Despite the fact that we came here and demanded to know about the fate of our son's killers, the state chose to ignore our requests, leaving us without public debate before the deal and without an opportunity to appeal after it goes through."
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