Israel's Release of 13 Lebanese Detainees Delayed Due to Lawsuit
The release of 13 Lebanese prisoners, scheduled for Monday, has been delayed because of an appeal to the Supreme Court to keep them in detention, the Israeli prisons department said.
"The release has been suspended following an appeal by the family of aircraft navigator Ron Arad," prisons spokeswoman Orit Messer told AFP.
Israeli pilot Arad was taken prisoner in Lebanon in 1986 after his plane went down there.
"The Supreme Court will begin considering the appeal at 9:00 a.m. (0600 GMT) and until it decides, the release process will be frozen," said Messer.
But legal experts said the delay would probably be a matter of hours, because it would be difficult for the court, to reverse its earlier order to release the prisoners.
The Israeli military announced earlier Sunday that 13 of its 15 Lebanese "administrative" detainees would be released and sent back to Lebanon.
They had all been seized years ago as bargaining chips for Arad and three Israeli soldiers missing in action.
The 13 prisoners had been due to Ayalon prison around 4:00 a.m. (0100 GMT) for Kishon, near Haifa, where they would be handed over to the military that would release them, said Messer.
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled April 12 that holding them simply as bargaining chips and not because they threatened the country's security was illegal.
The justice ministry nevertheless said Sunday that the two most important Lebanese in this form of administrative detention, renewable every six months, would stay there because they represented a terrorist threat.
They are Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid, kidnapped in 1989, and Mustapha Dirani, a Lebanese Shiite leader abducted in 1994. Israel says it was Dirani who held Arad prisoner.
Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said Saturday that Obeid and Dirani were a threat to Israeli security.
Dirani, a militant Shiite Muslim leader claims to have suffered torture during his time in Israeli custody.
Last month, his lawyer filed a 1.5-million-dollar lawsuit against Israel, saying Dirani had been systematically beaten and raped by his Israeli jailers.
The court's ruling over releasing the prisoners has been strongly criticized by government and opposition politicians, security officials and families of the missing Israelis.
ISRAELI COURT TO CONSIDER CASE OF LEBANESE HELD BY SLA
Lawyers for by 15 other Lebanese prisoners seeking release from the Khiam detention center in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon, said the Supreme Court would consider their appeal on Monday.
The detainees are also asking that other prisoners at Khiam also be freed.
"The prisoners have been locked up without being tried," the lawyers said in a news release. Some of them had been seriously mistreated during their incarceration, the statement alleged.
ISRAEL FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST HIZBOLLAH
In another development on the Israeli-Lebanese front, Israel on Sunday complained to an international panel monitoring the rules of engagement in south Lebanon that Hizbollah fighters had broken an unwritten agreement by shelling northern Israel.
The complaint came despite the fact that Israel itself has suspended its participation on the panel.
The complaint concerned the mortar shells fired from south Lebanon by the) Hizbollah movement which Israel said exploded on its territory Saturday.
No one was hurt and there was no damage, said an Israeli military spokesman said.
Israel, France, Lebanon, Syria and the United States are represented on the panel, which has not met since Israel pulled out on February 11 after Hizbollah killed one of its soldiers.
Set up in April 1996, after Israeli bombings killed 175 Lebanese civilians, it monitors an unwritten agreement under which Israel and Lebanese guerrillas refrain from targeting civilians or launching attacks from civilian areas.
The Israeli military spokesman said the latest attack had violated this accord.
Although Israel was boycotting the meetings, it had not officially left the panel and so felt able to present its complaint to the committee, he added.
"Israel did not decide to withdraw. But it will only consider participating in the panel meetings again if terrorist organizations like Hizbollah stop their attacks for at least two weeks," he said – (AFP)
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