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Copyright 2003 Haaretz
September 30

HEADLINE: High Court postpones prisoner swap ruling until Oct. 9

BYLINE:Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday postponed until October 9 its ruling on a petition against a prisoner swap that would include Lebanese militant Mustafa Dirani.

The petition was brought by the family of missing Air Force navigator Ron Arad, which is seeking an interim injunction to prevent the state from including Lebanese militant Mustafa Dirani in a prisoner swap with Hezbollah.

The Arad family believes that Dirani is too important a bargaining chip to be released without any information being offered on the missing navigator in exchange for Dirani's release.

The petition asked that the deal be delayed at least until the family has a chance to review the Vinograd report, which contains details on Ron Arad's case since he went missing 17 years ago.

The High Court ruled last Friday that Ron Arad's family must receive a copy of the report, but the copy submitted to the family will be censored for sensitive military information. The Arad family is expected to receive the modified report by the end of the week.

The Vinograd committee was appointed last year to review Arad's case, and determined that there is no available information that refutes the defense establishment's working assumption that the navigator is still alive.

Earlier in the month, three of Arad's relatives filed a NIS 100 million lawsuit against Dirani, one of the Lebanese captives whom Israel is reportedly planning to release as part of the prisoner exchange now being negotiated with Hezbollah.

The family is suing Dirani for damages resulting from the "shocking and inhumane" acts to which Ron Arad was subjected, including assault, wrongful imprisonment and selling him to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who took him to southern Iran where the trail ends. The family says that Dirani, who held Arad for at least two years, thus thwarted efforts to free Arad and is demanding NIS 100 million in damages.

Arad has been missing for the last 17 years, when his plane went down over southern Lebanon in October 1986.

The petition states that Dirani, whom Israel kidnapped in 1994, was involved in snatching Arad from the Amal militia group in October 1987 and sold him to Iranian agents a few years later.

A number of reports say that as part of a deal with Hezbollah, said to be about a week away, Israel would release Dirani and another Lebanese militant leader, Abdel Karim Obeid, kidnapped in 1989, as well as other Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian prisoners.

The Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbal has reported that the prisoner swap with Hezbollah was likely to take place on Yom Kippur, October 6. This would mark the 30th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, seen in the Arab world as an important victory over Israel.

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