Attorney: Releasing Lebanese failed to yield info on Arad
The Jerusalem Post
Jan 9, 2000
By Dan Izenberg
JERUSALEM (January 9) - The government has not received any information from Hizbullah regarding Ron Arad in exchange for releasing five Lebanese prisoners held hostage for 13 years, attorney Zvi Rish told a panel of nine High Court justices hearing his petition for the release of 16 others.
Formally, Rish represents eight of the 16 still being held. But if his petition is accepted, it is likely most, or all, of the Lebanese still being held in administrative detention without charges will be released.
On Friday, the court convened at the state's request to hear an update on ongoing attempts to determine the fate of air force navigator Ron Arad, shot down and captured in southern Lebanon in 1986, and three other missing soldiers and the link between those efforts and the imprisonment of the Lebanese hostages. There have been unofficial reports that the release of the five hostages was part of a three-way deal involving Israel, Lebanon and Germany whereby Israel would receive information about Arad, Iran would ameliorate the plight of 13 Jews on trial for treason, a German citizen sentenced to death in Iran would be freed and the five Lebanese hostages would go home.
A day after the release of the hostages, Hizbullah deputy secretary-general Naim Kassem said his group would try to get information about Arad to obtain the release of the remaining 16, including Mustafa Dirani, who held Arad for a time, and Sheikh Abdel-Karim Obeid.
The hearing was held behind closed doors. The state asked the court for permission to present new evidence to strengthen its arguments against releasing the hostages.
Before reporters were asked to leave the courtroom, Rish asked the justices not to admit new evidence into the hearing for procedural reasons. He added that there was nothing new in the state's claim that it was approaching a critical point in its efforts to obtain information about Arad. "For eight years they have been saying the same thing," he said. "Nothing has changed."
Rish said the release of the five Lebanese hostages had nothing directly to do with the Hizbullah and Israel. "It involved relations between Germany and Iran," he said. "It was aimed at the release of a German sentenced to death by Iran. "Nothing specific was determined with regard to Ron Arad."
The court then heard the testimony of security officials and informed the sides it would rule on the admissibility of the evidence and the petition itself at a later date.
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