Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman told right-wing activists how best to formulate pardon requests on behalf of convicted Jewish terrorists, thus advising them on requests he might later have to approve.
By law, each pardon request submitted to the president must be accompanied by a recommendation from the justice minister on whether to accept it. Moreover, if the president does accept it, the justice minister must countersign the pardon to make it valid.
Last night, Channel 2 television published a recording of right-wing activists asking Neeman how to secure the release of 12 Jewish terrorists. The conversation took place around the time of last October's Shalit deal, in which Israel traded 1,000 Palestinian terrorists for the kidnapped soldier.
Neeman responded with advice on how to formulate the pardon requests to improve chances that they would be accepted. Moreover, from his comments, this wasn't the first time he had done so.
On the tape, an activist is heard asking Neeman "how to get them released." Neeman responded: "I already gave you the solutions. Unfortunately, they're acting contrary to my advice, and that damages things."
The activist asked Neeman to elaborate, and the minister replied: "I said a separate request should be submitted in the name of each individual, not a [group] application by Honenu," referring to an organization that provides legal services to Jewish security prisoners. "A separate request with the reasons for each individual, and then they can be discussed. Okay? Separate requests get discussed.
"I said, applications with personal reasons for each individual, so that they can be passed on to the president. The president has to decide on this matter, and I'll countersign anything the president signs. I said this very clearly."
The activist then asked Neeman whether this is what was done for the Palestinians released in the Shalit deal.
"No, it wasn't like that with the Arabs," Neeman replied. "With the Arabs, there was a political decision. Do you want us to make this a political decision? There would be a bagatz [petition to the High Court of Justice].
"Why are you making these mistakes? We're giving you guidance on how to solve the problem. Each individual with his own reasons."
The activist said the rumor was that President Shimon Peres "would give a green light."
"The president has to give a signature, not a green light," Neeman replied. "Green lights are for the road ... Excuse me, but by law, I countersign the president's signature. Anything the president signs, I'll sign; I'll countersign his signature.
"He knows there are recommendations regarding each individual. You need to detail the recommendations in each case, and therefore, you need individual applications. That's the only way it'll work. I said this four weeks ago already."
The activist then asked whom he and his colleagues needed to talk to about the matter, and Neeman replied: "The [Justice Ministry's] pardons department. If you provided all the details, it will reach my desk ... When it reaches me, I'll deal with it immediately ... No file stays with me for more than one night."
The terrorists whose release the activists sought included Ami Popper, convicted of killing seven Palestinians at a Rishon Letzion bus stop in 1990, and members of the so-called Bat Ayin underground, three settlers convicted of attempting to bomb a Palestinian girls' school in East Jerusalem in 2002.
Asked for comment on Tuesday, Neeman's office replied: "Every request for a pardon submitted to the justice minister is examined on its merits by the relevant Justice Ministry professionals."
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