Monday, June 2, 2008

Not so fast

I've made no secret of my contempt for the release of live prisoners in exchange for dead body parts. I understand the reasons, but as I've said before*, the sancitity of the dead does not take precedence over the preservation of life, and the killers will kill again.

On the other hand, this is a little different.

Lebanese prisoner Nissim Nasser was released Sunday morning from the Nitzan Prison in Ramallah. He was accompanied by Immigration Police officers to the Rosh Hanikra crossing point, where he was returned to Lebanon.

Nasser is believed to have been released as part of a future prisoner swap deal with Hizbullah, ... [speculation omitted].

"I am happy he is being released and I hope that it has to do with a future deal. He told me he is very happy to return to Lebanon and is expected to receive a warm welcome there," Nasser's lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan, said as she arrived at the crossing point.

"He leaves behind two daughters who Israeli citizens, and this is a tragedy. He himself is not talking about a deal, but I find it hard to believe that the State of Israel would release him so easily otherwise," she added.

First of all, Nasser, as far as we know, isn't a murderer. He was arrested for espionage. More to the point, he was sentenced to six years in prison. And his term was up ... last month. So the posturing on both sides regarding this release is, IMO, slightly overdone.

Kuntar, of course, is an entirely different matter.

Some more background on Nasser, if you're interested:

On June 27, 2002, an indictment on charges of spying for Hezbollah was filed against Nissim Musa Nasser, a 34-year-old Lebanese-born Jewish Israeli living in Holon. Nasser, whose late father was a Shi'ite (his mother is Jewish), had remained in close telephone contact with his brother in Lebanon since emigrating to Israel ten years ago. In 2000, Nasser began complaining to his brother that he was experiencing severe financial problems. During one conversation, he was told that a member of Hezbollah who might be able to help wanted to speak with him. He subsequently contacted the Hezbollah member several times. On one such occasion, a high-ranking Hezbollah official was put on the line and asked him to provide the group with a map of the Tel Aviv area showing the locations of gas and electricity installations. Nasser was also asked to contact a senior IDF officer with whom he was acquainted.

According to the indictment, Nasser acquired a map designating the locations of gas depots and electrical power stations in Tel Aviv, which he also photographed on his own initiative. In addition, he relayed to his Hezbollah contact details of his conversation with the IDF officer, who revealed that Israel had no intention of invading Lebanon and told him about top secret plans to assassinate terrorist leaders in Lebanon. Nasser, who confessed to most of the charges, was arrested before he could meet with a Hezbollah contact abroad to deliver the intelligence and receive payment of $1,000.

*Links to InContext posts pre-dating November 18, 2007, including several rants about the possible release of Samir Kuntar in 2004 and 2006, are temporarily in suspended animation but will be returning soon, at another location TBA ...