October 20, 2021

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13-Nov-19: Thank you, Mr Foreign Minister

Open letter

Minister HE Dr Ayman Hussein Abdullah Al-Safadi

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Queen Alia Airport Street
Amman 11180

Dear Mr Safadi,

In a rare announcement as Jordan’s long-serving foreign minister, you spoke publicly and for the record yesterday about how the kingdom views the US extradition request it has rejected for years. Your message in our words: Jordan has rejected the US request for some years and confirms that it still rejects it.

You been careful until now to avoid public mentions of the embarrassing and humiliating way your country harbors the confessed Sbarro bomber and FBI Most Wanted fugitive terrorist Ahlam Tamimi. Tamimi, as you may know, faces charges in a United States federal court for her central role in the Hamas-inspired massacre that took the lives of many people, half of them children. One of those children was our daughter Malki who was just fifteen years old.

More than most people, and for reasons related to what we lost in the Sbarro atrocity, we are aware of how willing you are to discuss Jordan’s disavowal of its treaty obligations to the US – and how unwilling you are to talk about it in public. We tried to draw out your response in an article we published more than two years ago: “26-Jul-17: We listened carefully to Jordan’s foreign minister and we have 10 questions“. As you know, you ignored us. Your staff did the same.

Yesterday, unwittingly or deliberately (we don’t know), you went on the record and we are pleased to see what you said. Pleased enough that we want others to know. We found some blunt words of yours on the Jordanian news-site, JO24:

Safadi: We have received US requests to extradite Ahlam al-Tamimi. We confirm our commitment to the law that prevents it (JO24)

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Affairs, Ayman Safadi, said that several US authorities asked Jordan to extradite Jordanian citizen Ahlam Al-Tamimi, pointing out that Jordan respects and abides by the law “and the law does not allow it”.

Safadi said during a press conference to talk about the expiry of the annexes of the Wadi Araba agreement related to the areas of Baqoura and Ghamr, on Monday, that Jordan is a state that respects the law. Jordanian law does not allow the extradition of a citizen to a third country and there is no legal basis for the delivery of Ahlam al-Tamimi.
He pointed out that there are requests from US authorities requesting the extradition of Tamimi, “but Jordan deals in accordance with the law and the law does not allow extradition.”
In late March 2017, the Court of Cassation upheld a decision by the Amman Court of Appeal to reject Washington’s request for the extradition of Ahlam al-Tamimi, accused of involvement in an attack that killed two US citizens in 2001.
Tamimi spent 10 years in Israeli jails after being sentenced to 16 years [might be a machine translation error – see below] in prison for participating in a martyrdom operation of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, in the Sbarro restaurant in West Jerusalem in August 2001 in which 15 people were killed and 122 others were injured.
The occupation [a reference to Israel] released Tamimi and handed over to Jordan in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas.
[Source: “Safadi: We have received US requests to extradite Ahlam al-Tamimi. We confirm our commitment to the law that prevents it“, JO24, November 12, 2019 – the original article is in Arabic; the English text is via Google Translate]

(For background to the US extradition request, see “03-Nov-19: In Washington, a step towards bringing the Sbarro bomber to justice“)

You are the latest in a line of 8 foreign ministers to have served Jordan since its absolute monarch King Abdullah II ascended to the throne. You are the first to have publicly expressed, to the best of our knowledge, a frank and open disdain for an entirely proper request made by your country’s most important strategic partner.

We confess to being surprised by how inaccurate your claims are, at least in the form reported by the Jordan media. Naturally, if they misquoted you (which sometimes happens to politicians), we assume you will see to it that the record is fixed.

Meanwhile, on the assumption that what we see does reflect what you said, allow us to point out some of what you got wrong. Or matters that ought to be more on your mind than they seem to be.

  • You are quoted saying “Jordanian law does not allow the extradition of a citizen to a third country“. That’s neither true of Jordanian law nor at all consistent with the reasons Jordan’s highest court gave in its March 2017 decision to prohibit Tamimi’s extradition. That has to do with a narrow, highly technical flaw which officials in the US State Department have told us is simply untrue as a matter of fact. And, as we assume you know, it’s a flaw that in any case could have been fixed by Jordan’s parliament (whose members are by and large selected by the king, according to this Wikipedia entry) at any time. Including this afternoon.
  • You know that, in reality, Jordan has had an active extradition treaty with the US since July 29, 1995. It has extradited several Jordanians to the US. We can give you the details of several of them who are currently serving long US prison sentences. 
  • In fact, based on what we have learned from open source materials, Jordan has never once failed to extradite to the US when asked to do so – until the Tamimi case.
  • Is there really any doubt that Jordan has extradition treaties with other countries? We have not found an authoritative source but the list certainly includes Lebanon and France. A treaty is currently been negotiated with Australia where our Malki was born.
  • Jordan is monumentally dependent on US aid. The US provides far more foreign aid to Jordan than anyone else does.
  • In fact, on scanning the same Arabic media source that reports your disappointing statement about diasvowing your country’s treaty with the US, we found a report [“$1 Billion Additional Aid Will Reach Jordan Next Month“, JO24 and archived here] that underscores how important US support and generosity is to the kingdom.
  • While you are not to blame, we noticed what the JO24 report on your speech said about Tamimi. It’s sadly typical of the chronically inaccurate journalism emanating from other sources in your country. Tamimi, it wrongly states, is “accused of involvement in an attack that killed two US citizens in 2001“. Accused? Tamimi proudly boasts she did it, and was convicted by a tribunal of three Israeli judges who sentenced her to sixteen terms of life imprisonment. JO24 says it was 16 years, but in any event she was out after 8 years. And while it’s true that she is charged by the US with killing two US citizens – our daughter and the daughter of our friends the Haymans – the number of lives Tamimi extinguished, including the non-US citizens among them, is 16. One of those is a young mother who has been lying unconscious in all the years since then.
  • Why did you not express any concern that Jordan has given Tamimi, who has never denied the murders in which she was involved, a dream life? Do you have children? Do you know anyone who does? Are you aware that Tamimi has boasted repeatedly that it was children she set out to kill with her bomb?
  • Thanks to very uncharacteristic Hashemite tolerance, Tamimi had her own television program called Breezes of the Free or in Arabic “نسيم الأحرار” [background: “6-May-12: What lies behind freedom of the Palestinian Arab press?“], produced by Hamas and recorded week after week in the Jordanian capital between 2012 and 2016. 
  • How does Jordan’s willingness to allow Tamim’s weekly incitement to terror sit with your claim that the kingdom “respects and abides by the law“? Why is she permitted to appear as a celebrity in public events in Jordan? On Jordan’s commercial television? Why was her rapturous welcome back to Jordan in October 2011 conducted in a government court-hoouse?

Thank you for clarifying what you have already clarified. It’s a good basis for the US media to engage with you and to understand more deeply what your comments mean in the context of US/Jordan relatiions.

Naturally, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss what we have just placed in front of you. We would also want to take the opprtunity to share with you some things you might not know about the beautiful life of the child whose unbearable loss we continue to mourn.

Frimet and Arnold Roth
Jerusalem, Israel

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