Supreme Court to discuss release of 16 Lebanese prisoners next Friday
Haaretz, Wednesday, December 29, 1999
By Amos Harel
The Supreme Court is to meet next Friday to again deliberate the fate of the 16 Lebanese detainees being held by Israel as bargaining cards in the hope of securing the return of missing Israeli navigator Ron Arad.
The detainees' attorney, Zvi Rish, has been waging a drawn-out legal battle for the release of the men, who are being held in administrative detention.
Some of the men were active in Hezbollah, while others were abducted by Israel from Lebanon in a variety of circumstances. The detainees include Sheikh Abd el Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani, who at one point held Arad as a prisoner. The two were admittedly abducted so that they could be used as bargaining chips to secure Arad's release.
Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein and Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon have expressed support for releasing the detainees. A panel of nine Supreme Court justices was expected to rule on their fate shortly, and Supreme Court President Aharon Barak even promised that the decision would come "before the end of the millennium."
But the defense establishment has recently asked the judges on a few occasions not to make a decision before hearing from all the parties. On Sunday, a few hours before the release of five of the original 21 detainees was reported, the court was updated on the deal.
The court said yesterday that it would hold an additional meeting, which is thought to signify that it is postponing making a ruling in the matter. There could be new developments at the meeting, including a decision by the judges to postpone their decision while letting the government end the affair (by continuing its deals with Hezbollah) or even an announcement by the defense establishment that it intends to release the detainees.
copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved
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