Israel's High Court to Rule on Petition Against Releasing Palestinian Prisoners

State Prosecution responds to petition filed by terror victims association to overturn cabinet's decision to release 104 prisoners for peace talks.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

The High Court of Justice was asked on Wednesday to reject a petition to overturn a government decision to release 104 Palestinian prisoners.

In a response to a petition filed by the Almagor Terror Victims Association against freeing the prisoners, many of whom were responsible for terror attacks that killed and maimed Israelis, the State Prosecution told the court that it had rejected such petitions in the past and in general refrained from intervening in diplomatic issues.

The prisoners in question, all of whom committed their crimes before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, are slated for release as a gesture of goodwill to the Palestinians ahead of the resumption of peace talks.

The prosecution argued that the petition ought to be rejected sooner rather than later, since the ministerial panel authorized to oversee the releases is scheduled to convene in the coming days to approve next week’s release of a first group of prisoners. That will be the first of four groups to be let go; the rest will be released in accordance with the progress of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the coming months.

In the state’s response, the prosecution refers to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks on the issue, as well as the cabinet decision made two weeks ago, which the ministers passed by a vote of 13-7, with two abstentions.

With regard to the identities of the prisoners, the prosecutor said that these were prisoners who had committed their crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s, before the first agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization was signed. Most of them committed serious crimes and have been serving sentences of between 20-30 years. The court was also told that the cabinet had decided that if any of the prisoners return to terror or violate the terms of their release, they can be recaptured and imprisoned again.

The prosecution’s response also noted that the petitioner, Almagor Terror Victims Association, had several months ago requested and received information about these prisoners from the Justice Ministry’s Pardons Department when the possibility of releasing pre-Oslo prisoners was first raised. The department gave Almagor information about each prisoner’s crime, his victims, the date of his imprisonment and the length of his sentence. After this information was transferred, the department put itself at the families’ disposal for any queries.

The prosecutor added that after the new list of prisoners slated to be submitted to the president is decided upon, it will be publicized 48 hours before the scheduled release and the families will be given a chance to respond.

Palestinians holding placards and photographs depicting Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails during a protest.Credit: Reuters

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