Israel SC paves way for release of Palestine prisoners

Israel`s Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition opposing the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, paving the way for their release as a goodwill gesture ahead of fragile peace talks.

Updated: Aug 14, 2013, 00:50 AM IST

Jerusalem: Israel`s Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition opposing the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, paving the way for their release as a goodwill gesture ahead of fragile peace talks.

The court`s decision came on the eve of the second round of US-brokered peace talks between the Jewish nation and the Palestinian Authority.

The court`s nod, following a heated but affirmative vote by the government last week, set the stage for pardoning the long-term prisoners and releasing them tonight, Israel Prisons Services officials said.

The Supreme Court deliberated on the petition on Sunday, a few hours before the ministerial committee finalised the list of 26 prisoners to be released as part of Israel`s goodwill gestures to the Palestinians ahead of the resumption of talks.

In an official statement, Supreme Court President Asher Grunis wrote, "There is no dispute that the issue at hand is difficult and sensitive. Our hearts go out to the families of the terror victims.

"The government is authorised to appoint a ministerial committee which will look into various issues regarding prisoners` release," Grunis said.

Several times in the past, the court has granted government "the authority to determine that all decisions regarding prisoners` release will be made in a small ministerial committee", he said.

The judges dismissed petitioners` claim that the release of "terrorists" is unreasonable and incompatible with policies determined by previous Israeli governments.

"Decisions regarding prisoners` release, specifically such that are made in the process of diplomatic negotiations, are strictly within the jurisdiction of the government, as it is responsible for foreign affairs and national security," Grunis said.

Almagor Terror Victim`s Association, which filed the petition challenging the release of the prisoners, responded to the Court`s decision by saying, "The bereaved families see this as proof that the Prime Minister`s immoral politics have penetrated the halls of the court.

"The Supreme Court today closed the door before bereaved families and Jewish victims of terror, something it has not done to Palestinians," said Almagor.

Almagor claimed the court had erased the status of victims while granting protection to terrorists.

It termed the suspension of building of the security barrier and acquiescence to requests for stopping certain interrogation and arrest procedures as examples of the court`s bending to the will of Palestinians.

PTI