October 4, 2022

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30-May-19: Paris, Amman, Washington: What extradition can reveal about governments and terror

The landmark Jewish restaurant in Paris whose patrons were
targeted by a gang of Palestinian Arab jihadists
and their machine guns and hand grenades in 1982.

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

But in polite circles, especially circles which see King Abdullah II as a valuable friend and strategic ally, discussion of the matter is largely confined to whispers.

It’s an insight we keep re-acquiring as we pursue the confessed killer of our daughter [24-Mar-17: Our daughter’s smiling killer: “Shocked” that US “decided to go after her for no obvious reason”]. Jordan’s role in that process, and few know this as well as we do, has been obstructive, deceptive and dangerous.

The fugitive is a Jordanian woman who has been facing serious US Federal charges announced in Washington on March 14, 2017. The background is here: “14-Mar-19: Two years after Federal charges are unsealed, Ahlam Tamimi remains free. How is this happening?

The brief version: At the age of 21 and as Hamas’ first female terrorist, Ahlam 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 chose the site, brought the bomb (a young religious fanatic in the service of Hamas as was Tamimi) and then fled to Ramallah where she read the evening TV news bulletin for Istiqlal TV.

One of her innocent victims, as followers of this blog know, was our daughter Malki, 15, who was an American citizen.

In that March 2019 post, we describe the mechanics of how terrorism charges were finally announced against Tamimi. It’s not well known. For instance, 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 a good reason.

Then we wrote 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 of the United States has still not responded to our letter. But our concern here and now is with other aspects of the Tamimi case.

Now comes the part about an especially vicious and murderous Palestinian Arab terror attack on one of France’s best-known Jewish landmarks, a Paris restaurant called Chez Jo Goldenberg. There’s background in another of our posts: “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 there about Jordan, and the mostly-concealed (by the media and by diplomats) 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  also said 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.

Tamimi is no longer part of that weekly TV exercise in inciting terror from downtown Amman (not her choice). But she continues to play a key role in Jordan’s fascination with Arab-on-Israeli terror. [Good example: “24-Nov-18: How Jordan’s mainstream media showcase a couple of role-model jihadist murderers“]

So now to the events of this week and the Kingdom of Jordan’s self-justification about its failure to hand over the alleged perpetrators of the 1982 Paris barbarism. 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]

Ben Cohen is of course right. That same Jordanian forum, the Court of Cassation in Amman, handed down a deeply problematic ruling in another extradition case two years ago.

That 2017 case is about Ahlam Tamimi, about the legality of an extradition treaty between Jordan and the United States and whether Jordan could, should or had to extradite Tamimi to face terror charges in the United States. The US had made a formal request years earlier for Jordan to hand her over as required in their treaty. Jordan had persisted in its refusal.

But first a word about what came before that. In early 2012, we, Frimet and Arnold Roth, asked the Department of Justice of the United States to prosecute Tamimi right after she was released prematurely [“19-Oct-11: Haaretz: Shalit prisoner swap marks ‘colossal failure’ for mother of Israeli bombing victim“] from a prison sentence of 16-life-terms in Israel in the Shalit Deal and sent off to where she came from, Jordan.

Under a Federal law, the US not only can go after terrorists who kill US citizens on foreign soil. It must.

In that media conference mentioned above, the DOJ on March 14, 2017 not only unveiled charges against Tamimi but also promptly added her to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list where she still is today. A $5 Million reward for “information that leads to [her] arrest or conviction” was announced nine months later by the State Department’s Rewards for Justice unit.

The Tamimis in their Amman apartment in March 2017 where AP’s
reporters and video people visited them [link including video]

The reward, which we pressed for, is a curious thing. Tamimi has never been in hiding. She lives in a pleasant, well-equipped apartment with her family in Amman. Her husband, who is her cousin, was also a convicted murderer, also released in the Shalit Deal. News crews, among them Associated Press visit regularly and interview her there. The DOJ clearly knows this, but who are we to raise such concerns?

Within that same week, just a handful of days later, Jordan’s Court of Cassation came to Tamimi’s rescue, handing down a bizarre ruling that confirmed what everyone knows, that there is indeed an extradition treaty with the US and has been since 1995. The Clinton Administration 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 peak court, a constitutional flaw in the process meant that the treaty with the US could not be used to send Tamimi to a Washington courthouse. Moreover, the treaty was not only invalid now but had been invalid since the day it was signed. (Note that Jordan has happily extradited 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 key?)
The flaw, said the court, was that the treaty had to get the approval of Jordan’s rubber-stamp parliament. And it never got it. Tamimi, not in hiding now or ever, lives free-as-a-bird in Jordan today. The $5 Million State Department reward remains on offer and unpaid. Infuriating to anyone who understands how power flows in Jordan, but leave that for the moment.

Now comes Jordan’s Court of Cassation in the Jo Goldenberg Massacre case on Tuesday.

It says (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?

Did the 2015 France/Jordan extradition treaty get approved by the Jordanian rubber stamps that we were told a while back needed to approve it? Evidently yes, since the court doesn’t claim the agreement with France is flawed in the constitutional way the US/Jordan treaty was (allegedly). If so, then let the same rubber stamp come now, this afternoon, right this damn hour, and at the king’s command fix Jordan’s allegedly invalid treaty with the US. Isn’t that how rubber stamps are supposed to work?

Or is it no? Meaning actually, the treaty with France was not rubber stamped by the parliament. Yet it was perfectly effective anyway. There is no constitutional flaw. It didn’t need to be rubber stamped because, well, you know. But, oops, sadly there’s this statute of limitations.

There’s much room to be deeply cynical about Jordan’s efforts to take the high road.

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 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. She fled to the safety
of Ramallah after instructing him to explode a few minutes later.

We absolutely 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.

The thwarted Jo Goldenberg extradition underscores what we have already learned, trying to drag 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 – certainly not a government that aligns itself strategically with the US – should ever expect to have both.

It’s a message we still hope to hear articulated by officials of the US government.

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