Court issues ultimatum over censored Winograd C'tee testimonies

State given 5 days to prepare response to petition demanding release of Olmert, Peretz, and Halutz transcripts.

idf tank lebanon 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
idf tank lebanon 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The High Court of Justice on Tuesday gave the state five more days to prepare its response to a petition demanding that it publish the censored testimonies of the prime minister, defense minister and former chief of General Staff to the Winograd Committee before the committee releases its interim report later this month. The court also scheduled a hearing on the petition for next Sunday. The government appointed the Winograd Committee to investigate Israel's preparedness for the Second Lebanon War, which began last July 12, and its conduct of the fighting. The petition was submitted by Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On. She demanded that the state publish the censored testimonies of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former chief of General Staff Dan Halutz before releasing the interim report of its findings in the first stage of the investigation. Initially, the state told the court it would comply with the petition's demand. A panel of three justices headed by Supreme Court President Eliezer Rivlin turned the response into a High Court decision declaring that the Winograd Committee must release the three testimonies before Pessah. Just before Pessah, however, the state submitted a new reply to the petition, asking the court to change its decision and allow the committee to release the testimonies after the interim report. On April 2, the High Court issued a show-cause order, instructing the state to present its formal reply to the petition by Tuesday, April 10. In doing so, it allowed the state to miss the pre-Pessah deadline without explicitly saying so. But on Sunday, two days before it was due to present its formal response to the show-cause order, the state asked for a seven-day extension on the grounds that because of the Pessah holiday, it did not have enough time to prepare a comprehensive reply. In response to this latest request by the state, the court on Tuesday ordered the state to submit its reply to the show-cause order by 9 a.m. Sunday, April 15. The hearing is due to take place two hours later. Upon learning of the court's decision, Gal-On said she was "hopeful that the fact that the court has scheduled a hearing for next Sunday will put an end to the procrastination of the Winograd Committee." She accused the committee of "trying to avoid releasing the testimonies and turning the state into a tool of the Olmert government, which is trying to avoid the court's ruling to release the testimonies of the three leading figures before the publication of the interim report."