High Court rejects petition by terror victims association to block Palestinian prisoner release

Court does not find grounds to intervene in prisoner release taking place in the framework of the peace process.

Protest against prisoner release 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Protest against prisoner release 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The High Court of Justice rejected a petition late Tuesday night by the Almagor Terror Victims Association to block the second round of Palestinian prisoner releases scheduled for the same night as part of the ongoing Israeli- Palestinian peace talks.
According to the terms for entering talks, Israel would release four rounds of Palestinian prisoners over nine months as a confidence-building measure for Palestinian participation in the talks.
Tuesday’s decision came at lightning speed, with the petition itself being filed only Tuesday afternoon, followed by a rushed hearing by a panel of three justices presided over by Deputy Supreme Court President Miriam Naor.
The court said that the issue of releasing prisoners is “a sensitive and complex one which stands at the heart of a public controversy.”
However, the court emphasized that the question before the High Court was “only limited to the legal question: Are there grounds to intervene in the prisoner release taking place in the framework of the peace process?” The court said that at the hearing, it “heard from the niece of [murdered] soldier Moshe Tamam, who spoke with obvious pain and emotion against the prisoner release.”
However, it noted that the murderers of Tamam, who were Arab-Israelis, are not among the 26 prisoners listed as part of the current round of releases.
The petitioners also claimed that some of the prisoners due to be released violated the government’s own standards and were due to be released in error, as they had committed their crimes post-Oslo. One of the principles of the current prisoner release has been to release only prisoners whose crimes were committed pre-Oslo.
The state responded that the defining date for the government’s determination was not the 1993 signing of the Declaration of Principles which started the ball rolling on Oslo, but a 1994 agreement which formalized the 1993 framework, and that all of the crimes came before the 1994 signing.
The petitioners also claimed that the first round of prisoner releases was responsible for a recent uptick in terror emanating from the West Bank, and argued for a delay of the release until the issue could be further scrutinized.
The state responded that security issues and commitments to the US required the release to go forward Tuesday night as planned.
Earlier in the day, ahead of the court’s ruling, Meir Indor, the head of Almagor, told reporters: “We are soldiers without weapons, with papers, against terrorism, against a victory for terrorism.”
“We are fighters for peace,” he continued. “If the murderers are out, there will not be peace.”
Henry Rome contributed to this report.