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In a High Court petition filed Thursday morning, the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) asked justices to delay the second stage of the Gilad Schalit prisoner-exchange deal. A total of 550 Palestinian security prisoners are set to be released on Sunday, according to a list published on the Prison Service website.
Thursday’s petition comes after the High Court decided not to accede to requests by terror victims in October to interfere in the release of 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners as part of the first stage in the government-brokered deal to free kidnapped soldier Schalit.
Terror victims had complained that the government had not given them sufficient notice that terrorists convicted of murdering their family members were among those scheduled for release, but the court said it would not delay the deal after the state argued the timeline for the first stage was critical.
However, in its petition the Law Center argued that as Schalit has now been returned safely to Israel, the court must allow for a “full democratic and public process” to take place and order the government to establish criteria determining which security prisoners should be released.
According to the petition, although Israel is committed to honor the Schalit deal, there is nothing to prevent the government from delaying the second phase of prisoner releases in order to establish such criteria.
“Schalit is free, there is no immediate threat to life. It’s crucial that the democratic process is thoroughly played out. The citizens victimized by these terrorists must be able to bring their claims before the court,” said Law Center Director attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner.
“In a democratic state, all citizens who oppose the government’s policy must be given adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard by neutral judicial officers.”
The petition argues that the rights of terror victims and their families could be harmed if they are not given sufficient time to contest the release of specific prisoners, and Darshan-Leitner noted that the Prison Service website published the list of prisoners to be released on Wednesday, ahead of their release on Sunday.
“It takes time for the families to be notified and the cases be brought to court.
Not allowing an adequate opportunity is a travesty of justice,” she said.
In addition to the Legal Center, terror victims Michael Norzich and Dr. Alan Bauer also chose to be named on the petition. Norzich’s brother Vadim was murdered by a Palestinian lynch mob in Ramallah in 2000. One of the Palestinians convicted of carrying out that murder, Abed Alaziz Salaha, was released during the first phase of the Schalit deal.
Bauer, a US citizen living in Israel, was injured with his son Jonathan in a Fatah suicide bombing on Jerusalem’s King George Street in 2002.
The attack killed three and wounded 86 others. One of the men responsible for that bombing, Fatah terrorist Darwish Ghazi Darwish Dahdar, is among those set to be released on Sunday as part of the second phase.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Bauer said that in line with strict US anti-terror legislation – which stipulates that foreign terrorists suspected of harming US citizens outside US soil can be subject to prosecution in the US – he and other terror victims have informed US Attorney-General Eric Holder that several people convicted of killing and harming Americans may have been freed without the required public debate.
Bauer said he hoped the petition will “let Israel know that it is not the only country affected by the prisoner releases.”
“Several people who carried out our attack are still free,” he added.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe thanked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Thursday for agreeing to release a French national as part of the second stage of the Gilad Schalit exchange.
Salah Hassan Hamouri, a recidivist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist, was convicted in 2005 for plotting the assassination of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Hamouri holds French citizenship.
“Since 2009, President Sarkozy has been expressing the hope that Mr. Salah Hamouri would be granted early release… France appreciates this gesture by the Israeli Prime Minister and government,” Juppe said.