High Court Okays Prisoner Transfer to Jordan
High Court rejects petition from victims’ families to keep in Israel four Jordanians serving life sentences for murder of soldiers; petitioners worry prisoners will be pardoned once in Jordan
The High Court rejected on Wednesday a petition protesting the transfer of four Jordanian prisoners from Israel to Jordan for the remainder of their sentences. The four, in jail for killing two Israeli soldiers several years ago, will be transferred Thursday morning.
The appeal against the transfer was filed by the Almagor organization – which represents families of victims of terror attacks – and by Sarah Levy, the mother of one of the deceased soldiers.
The four prisoners inflitrated Israel in late 1990. Three got into a gun battle with Israeli troops that resulted in the death of Capt. Yehuda Lifshitz. The last killed Sgt. Pinchas Levy in a separate incident.
In February, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he had accepted a request from King Abdullah II of Jordan to send the four back to Jordan, where they would serve out their prison sentences.
But advocates for the petitioners said there was a chance that the four, who are serving life sentences, would be pardoned as early as a year and a half from now, if transferred to Jordan.
Indeed, an Israeli official said Israel had received an assurance from Jordan that the prisoners will serve at least 18 more months in prison after the transfer. However, there has been no additional legal commitment.
The High Court judges, led by Miriam Naor, explained that they had chosen not to get involved in what they considered a political decision, adding that such an action by the government was not aberrant.
“Naor’s decision epitomizes the continuation of an acceptable, if controversial, government practice in recent years, of allowing the release of terrorists – either as part of a prisoner exchange or as a goodwill gesture,” explained Judge Elyakim Rubinstein.
Nonetheless, he, along with several other judges including Naor, expressed discomfort with the decision, noting that “the murderers of IDF soldiers will most likely not serve out their sentences.” He criticized the Attorney-General’s office for not being clear about the legal future awaiting the prisoners upon arriving in Jordan.
According to Rubinstein, if the government believed that it was appropriate to reduce the sentence of the four murderers, it should have declared so publicly and asked the president to grant them a pardon or reduced sentence, rather than trying to reduce the sentence using different legal rules.
He added that the State’s claim that the petitioners were trying to use a legal façade to promote a political issue was “out of line,” particularly in respect to Sarah Levy.