Thursday, May 30, 2019

30-May-19: Paris, Amman, Washington: Extradition and what it can reveal about governments and terror

The landmark Jewish restaurant in Paris whose patrons were
targeted in 1982 by Palestinian Arab jihadists
and their machine guns and hand grenades.
In this post, we explain why an important court decision handed down in Jordan this week by its highest court throws a sharply negative light on Jordan's controversial 2017 claim that the kingdom's 1995 Extradition Treaty with the US in invalid and non-binding.

That earlier ruling, concerning Ahlam Tamimi, now looks contrived and unconvincing. And though the United States isn't saying much about it, we think people ought to know.

Terror and the Hashemite Kingdom

Jordan's creativity with the definition of terror is not new and hardly a secret.

But in polite circles, especially circles which view King Abdullah II as a valuable friend of the West and a strategic ally in the battle against "the terrorists", discussion of the matter is largely confined to whispers.

That's an insight we keep re-acquiring as we pursue Ahlam Tamimi, the confessed Jordanian killer of our daughter [24-Mar-17: Our daughter's smiling killer: "Shocked" that US "decided to go after her for no obvious reason"]. The Hashemite Kingdom's role in that process, and few know this as well as we do, has been obstructive, deceptive and dangerous.

Ahlam Tamimi, now a fugitive from US justice with her own "Most Wanted" poster (in English and Arabic versions), is a Jordanian woman of 39 who faces serious US Federal terrorism-related charges that were announced in Washington on March 14, 2017.

Ahlam Tamimi the fugitive

The brief version: At the age of 21 and as Hamas' first female terrorist, Tamimi masterminded the bombing of the Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria massacre and the many Jewish children inside. (She has proudly admitted for the record that it was Jewish children she sought to kill. And why.) She carefully chose the site, scouted out the access path, brought the bomb (a human bomb - a young religious fanatic also in the service of Hamas) and then fled back to Ramallah moments before the explosion where she read the evening TV news bulletin for Istiqlal TV.

One of her many innocent victims, as regular visitors to this blog know, was our daughter Malki, 15. She was an American citizen.

In October 2011, Tamimi was released prematurely to our horror from a prison sentence of 16-life-terms in Israel in the Shalit Deal. Israel sent her off to Jordan where she came from ["19-Oct-11: Haaretz: Shalit prisoner swap marks 'colossal failure' for mother of Israeli bombing victim"]. She quickly set about developing an enhanced career in terror and terror-incitement under Jordanian protection.

Some weeks later, in early 2012, we went to Washington and asked the US Department of Justice to prosecute Tamimi. Under a Federal law, the US can go after terrorists who kill US citizens on foreign soil. Its jurisdiction is world-wide.

And indeed, this eventually happened. The background is here: "14-Mar-19: Two years after Federal charges are unsealed, Ahlam Tamimi remains free. How is this happening?"

The details of how terrorism charges were finally announced against Tamimi are not well known. For instance, the fact that the judge who signed off on the charges actually did so in 2014, three years earlier. There's a reason for those lost three years; not such a good reason.

And this:
All three of the DOJ officials quoted in the 2017 announcement have moved on to other positions during these past two years. We wrote a letter last week [i.e. in March 2019], addressed to them and to the three officials who filled their places in the DOJ. Among other things, we asked them whether the DOJ is going to address certain serious problems that we described for them. At this stage, we do not plan to publish the letter; we continue to hope that we will get a meaningful DOJ response that deals with the important issues we raised. However we do want people to know (which is why we are posting this now to our blog) that we sent that letter and that it respectfully requests the DOJ to take specific steps... [Our March 14, 2019 post]
It's distressing to report that the Justice Department has still not responded to our letter. But our concern here and now is with other aspects of the Tamimi case.

The 1982 Paris killings

Let's turn now to a murderous Palestinian Arab terror attack on one of France's best-known Jewish landmarks, a Paris restaurant called Chez Jo GoldenbergIn a 2016 post (13-Feb-16: Three decades after a terror attack on a Paris restaurant, some things remain just as they were"), we made some pungent observations about Jordan and the poorly understood, even surprising, way it approaches terrorism in general and ultra-violent antisemitic attacks in particular.

In November 2018, Mr and Mrs Tamimi, unrepentant murderers both,
were paid generous tribute on Jordan's most-watched TV channel.
Not one word about the Israelis they killed.
We wrote this:
We wish there was much wider awareness of how Jordan has provided a friendly environment since 2011 for the woman who masterminded the murder of our daughter, allowing her to operate freely from within Jordan's borders; to speak as an honored guest at its universitiesprofessional guildslaw courts and other venues; to record her television program "Naseem Al Ahrar" (translation: “Breezes of the Free”) week after week for beaming out to the Arabic-speaking world throughout the past 4 years; and to emerge as a genuine pan-Arab celebrity.
In a Jordanian courthouse

So now to the events of this week. Ben Cohen's fine report today ["Jordanian Refusal to Extradite Paris Kosher Restaurant Killer to France Renews Concern Over Amman’s Terrorism Policy"] on The Algemeiner website sets the stage:
The Kingdom of Jordan’s highest court has rejected a French appeal for the extradition of a suspect in a deadly attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris more than 30 years ago — raising further concerns that the stalwart ally of the West continues to offer safe haven to terrorists wanted by the courts of other countries, including the United States.
On Tuesday, Jordan’s Court of Cassation ruled against the extradition of 57-year-old Nizar Tawfiq Mussa Hamada, one of the alleged participants in the Aug. 9, 1982 attack at Chez Jo Goldenberg, a kosher restaurant in the traditionally Jewish Marais district of Paris.
After exploding a grenade inside the packed restaurant during its lunchtime service, two terrorists then opened fire on the diners with machine guns. Six people died and 22 more were wounded in the assault.
The atrocity was carried out by the Abu Nidal Organization — a radical Palestinian terrorist group that was active during the 1970s and 1980s, when it carried out attacks in over 20 countries. Named after the nom de guerre of its founder, Sabri al-Banna, the Abu Nidal group was backed at different times by the Iraqi, Syrian and Libyan regimes.
Speaking after Tuesday’s decision in favor of his client, Hamada’s lawyer, Mazan al-Tawil, praised the Jordanian judges for “categorically refusing” the French extradition request. Al-Tawil referred to the court’s decision to reject an earlier extradition request for Hamada in Feb. 2016 for the same reason — that a period of more than 30 years had elapsed since the atrocity, exceeding Jordan’s “limitation period” for extradition.
Al-Tawil’s co-conspirators in the attack on the restaurant have similarly escaped French justice because of the intervention of Jordanian courts.
The suspects in the Chez Jo Goldenberg attack were not formally identified until 2014, when two anonymous informants associated with Abu Nidal’s group supplied the French authorities with the missing information.
The following year, France’s top magistrate tasked with combating terrorism, Marc Trévidic, issued arrest warrants for several suspects, including Hamada and fellow Jordanian citizen Souhair Mouhamed Hassan Khalid al-Abassi — aka Amjad Atta — reputedly the mastermind behind the attack.
A French request to the Jordanian courts for al-Abassi’s extradition was similarly rejected in Oct. 2015 — just three months after the Hashemite Kingdom signed an extradition treaty with the French government.
But France is not the only country to have been turned down by Jordan after submitting an extradition request in connection with terrorism... [The Algemeiner today]
The Tamimi extradition

Ben Cohen is of course right.

That very same Jordanian tribunal, the Court of Cassation in Amman (the equivalent of a Supreme Court), handed down a highly problematic ruling in an unrelated extradition case two years ago. That 2017 case is about Mrs Tamimi. Its larger importance is that it considers the legality of an extradition treaty between Jordan and the United States that the US considers - without any doubt - in effect and binding.

The US had made a formal request years earlier (we think in 2013 but can't be sure) for Jordan to hand Tamimi over to them for bringing her to the US as required in their treaty. Jordan had persisted for the following three-plus years in its refusal.

The Jordanian court was asked, in effect, to rule on whether Jordan could, should or had to extradite Tamimi to face US terror charges.

It decided within the same week as the announcement of Federal charges against Tamimi, in fact just days later. In a somewhat bizarre ruling it first confirmed what everyone already knew, that there is indeed an extradition treaty with the US and has been since 1995. The Clinton Administration had signed it with King Hussein's government when it wanted to get its hands - and did get its hands - on Eyad Ismoil, one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plotters.

But, said the court, embarking on a Save Tamimi strategy, a constitutional flaw in the process meant that the treaty with the US could not be used to send the confessed killer to a Washington courthouse. Moreover, the treaty was not only invalid now. It had been invalid since the day it was signed.

This is an astounding thing for a US ally to claim.

It gets worse. Jordan has in reality happily extradited other Jordanian terrorists after 1995, The most recent was sentenced in the US just last year. None of them, as it happens, targeted Jews. (Could that be the missing key?)

The flaw, said the court, was in the fact that the treaty needed to get the approval of Jordan's rubber-stamp parliament. But it somehow never did. And it continues not to get it. Never getting it meant, the court implies, that Jordan's constitution prohibits the treaty from going into effect. And so Ahlam Tamimi could not be handed over to the US for prosecution. Case closed.

The US government reward

In its March 14, 2017 announcement, the DOJ did more than just unveil charges against Tamimi. It also added her to the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list where she still is todayA $5 Million reward for "information that leads to [her] arrest or conviction" was announced nine months later by the Rewards for Justice Unit (RFJ) of the Department of State.

Never in hiding: The Tamimis in their Amman apartment
in March 2017 where Associated Press reporters and
video people visited them [link including video]
That reward, which we pressed for is a curious thing. Why?

Because Tamimi has never been in hiding. She lives free-as-a-bird in Jordan today in a pleasant, well-equipped apartment with her family in Amman. Her husband, who is her cousin and also a convicted murderer was also released in the Shalit Deal. News crews, among them Associated Press visit regularly and interview her there.

The DOJ and the State Department's RFJ clearly know this.

Jordan's legal stance

Consider now what Jordan's Court of Cassation did in the Jo Goldenberg Massacre decision on Tuesday. It said (our words, not theirs):
We would simply love to do the right thing and extradite these evil shooters back to Paris. But - such rotten luck - the 2015 France/Jordan extradition treaty doesn't help since the statute of limitations has expired. Yes, it's too late. Our judicial hands are tied.
To which a pair of grieving parents in far-away Jerusalem say: So which one is it, Your Honors?

In your French decision, you treated that 2015 extradition treaty as legal and binding but you discovered an unrelated problem that meant the alleged perpetrator of the Paris massacre didn't have to be handed over to the French prosecutors. But in your American decision, you found the US treaty was invalid; some additional signature was needed, you said, and 22 years later Jordan's rulers still hadn't found the pen (except when it was needed for that French treaty). So Tamimi is saved the trouble of being prosecuted in Washington.

What a farce.

Did the 2015 France/Jordan extradition treaty get approved by the Jordanian rubber stamps that, according to the 2017 Tamimi decision, had to approve it? Apparently yes. Jordan's most senior judges aren't claiming the agreement with France is tainted constitutionally (as the 1995 US/Jordan one is, they say). If the French treaty was flawed, they would have said it. And they didn't.

We say: So then let that same Jordanian rubber stamp come now, this afternoon, right this hour, and at the king's command fix Jordan's allegedly invalid US Extradition Treaty. Isn't that how rubber stamps are supposed to work?

Or take the opposite view. Let's say the French treaty was never rubber stamped by Jordan's parliament. Yet the judges, who are silent on this point, treat it as being perfectly effective. No constitutional flaw. No need for it to be rubber stamped because, well, you know. But, oops, sadly there's this statute of limitations.

Taken together, the two Jordanian Court of Cassation decisions, one from 2017, one from this month, underscore the very high likelihood that the Jordan/US Treaty is in reality perfectly valid. That is precisely what the US says though it has not yet said it in public for reasons that bother us a great deal. (We have it in writing from multiple US government sources).

Without being excessively blunt on this, let's just say there's much room to be deeply cynical about Jordan's claims and its highest court's decision to refuse the US extradition request in the specific case of Tamimi. (Jordan's government itself, as distinct from its Court of Cassation, has never said a word in public about their refusal to extradite Tamimi.)

"Stop bothering Jordan"

Respected observers have noted that the kingdom of Jordan is going through a rocky period. There seems to be a sense that its dear friends in the West need to cut it some slack, not press too hard and do what needs to be done so its widely admired anti-terrorism monarch, King Abdullah II, can get on with the job of fixing the economy and building a stable, prosperous Western-facing state.

The man speaking is the Palestinian Arab father of the human bomb who
was brought to the Sbarro site by Ahlam Tamimi. (The Middle East bureau
chief of Australia's national broadcaster, ABC
, at the time of the Sbarro 
massacre tried to persuade us to be interviewed with because he's so opposed
to violence and so pro-peace.) She fled to the safety of Ramallah
after instructing him to explode a few minutes later. Which he did.
We don't agree.

Jordan, entirely unreported by the news industry, has turned the Sbarro savage, Tamimi, into a pan-Arab hero from her safe, government-guaranteed perch in Amman, Jordan's capital.

Since 2011 via TV, social media and Internet-streamed video all over the Arabic speaking world and even into Israel's security prisons, she has become an inspiration to the powerful and very large forces inside the kingdom (and far beyond it) who want more bloodshed and conflict, more killing of Israelis and Jews, more "dignity" for the 80+ percent of Jordanians who call themselves Palestinians.

Tamimi no longer takes part in the weekly terror-promoting TV program we mentioned earlier. (Leaving it was not her choice - another story.) But she continues to play a key role in Jordan's fascination with Arab-on-Israeli terror. For a good example, see "24-Nov-18: How Jordan's mainstream media showcase a couple of role-model jihadist murderers".

Justice

The thwarted Jo Goldenberg extradition underscores what we already learned as we have tried (and continue to try) to bring our child's killer to justice since 2012:
You can have healthy bilateral relations based on justice, openness and honesty. Or you can pander to the powerful pro-terror forces operating inside Jordan. No one and certainly not a government that aligns itself strategically with the US can expect to have both.
It's a message we still hope (and fully expect) to hear articulated by officials of the US government.

No comments: