Court nixes delay to stage two of Schalit deal

Justices say government must honor the deal, release of 550 prisoners expected to go ahead Sunday.

Freed Palestinian prisoner greets child_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Freed Palestinian prisoner greets child_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
The High Court of Justice on Friday rejected a petition asking to delay the second stage of the prisoner-exchange brokered with Hamas to release kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
The release of 550 Palestinian security prisoners to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is now set to proceed at 8 p.m. on Sunday.RELATED:Abbas to build homes for prisoners released for SchalitAbbas to pay grants to prisoners released in Schalit deal
In a unanimous ruling, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, Justice Asher Dan Grunis and Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said that the government must “make good its commitment to the agreement it has signed and approved.”
In its response to the court, the state had said that with the exception of two female prisoners, the 550 prisoners scheduled for release on Sunday do not include Hamas or Islamic Jihad members, and that none of the prisoners on the list were directly involved in any attacks that resulted in death or injury. Four hundred of the prisoners on the list have served two-thirds of their sentences, the state said.
Most belong to Fatah. They were held for offenses as minor as stone-throwing or as serious as attempts to kill Israelis.
Friday’s ruling, written by Grunis, noted that the court decided in October not to intervene in the release of 1,027 security prisoners as part of the first stage of the Schalit deal, after victims of terrorism and their families filed High Court petitions opposing the releases.
“The court did not intervene in the first phase [of the deal]... and there is no reason to intervene now in the implementation of that agreement’s second phase,” Grunis said.
The Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) and terrorism victims Michael Norzich and Dr. Alan Bauer filed the petition on Thursday, arguing that the government should formulate clear criteria for determining which prisoners should be released.
The petitioners conceded that Israel must honor the prisoner-exchange deal, but said that as Schalit is now safe at home the government could delay the second phase of releases while it established such criteria.
The petitioners asked for an injunction ordering the government to publish the list of prisoners at least 14 days before their release date. This, they said, would give victims sufficient time to check whether any prisoners scheduled for release were terrorists involved in attacks that harmed them or their relatives.
The petitioners noted that the Prisons Service published the prisoner list only on Wednesday, just four days ahead of the scheduled release.
Grunis also criticized the petitioners for not asking the state weeks ago to publish the list of prisoners to be released, since they were aware the second phase of the Schalit deal would take place two months after the first prisoner release in October.
The full list of prisoners can be obtained in English on the Prisons Service website:
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.