Jordan’s refusal to extradite the most-wanted terrorist could cost it US aid
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- Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi is a Jordanian national known for assisting in...[+]
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For seven years Jordan has refused to extradite to the U.S. a wanted Hamas terrorist with American blood on her hands, but now the kingdom is coming under fresh pressure, with warnings that its stance could cost it vital U.S. aid.
A close ally, Jordan is currently the third-largest recipient of annual U.S. foreign aid, after Afghanistan and Israel. According to the Congressional Research Service, it has received more than $20 billion in economic and military aid through FY 2017. The administration’s budget requests for FY 2020 and FY 2021 exceeded $1.2 billion each year.
Ahlam al-Tamimi, a Jordanian citizen, is on the FBI’s “most wanted terrorist” list, and subject to a State Department reward of up to $5 million.
The Department of Justice first filed criminal charges against her in 2013 – they were unsealed four years later – but Jordan has consistently refused to extradite her to the U.S.
Appropriations legislation signed into law late last year includes a section prohibiting funding for “a country which has notified the Department of State of its refusal to extradite to the United States any individual indicted for a criminal offense for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.”
Provision is made for a national security waiver, but the Associated Press reported on Tuesday that in written answers to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the administration’s nominee to be ambassador to Jordan wrote that, if confirmed, he would “explore all options” to ensure Tamimi was extradited to face justice in the U.S.
“The United States has multiple options and different types of leverage to secure Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi’s extradition,” Henry Wooster wrote, adding that U.S. economic and military aid to Jordan “is carefully calibrated to protect and advance the range of U.S. interests in Jordan and in the region.”
In refusing to extradite the wanted terrorist, Jordanian officials have cited a technical glitch in its 25-year-old extradition treaty with the U.S.
But the reality, critics say, is that Tamimi is held in high regard in Jordan – a country more than half of whose citizens originate from the West Bank or present-day Israel – and the authorities are loath to risk popular discontent by handing over someone viewed as a heroic fighter for the Palestinian cause.
Here’s how that reputation was earned: In August 2001, the 20-year-old part-time journalist scouted suitable terrorist targets for Hamas, before directing a suicide bomber to a busy pizza restaurant in downtown Jerusalem. He then detonated his bomb, killing 15 people, including seven children, aged two, four, eight, ten, 14, 15 and 16 years old.
Among the victims were two American citizens, 15-year-old Malka Roth, and Judith Greenbaum, 31, who was pregnant. A fourth American, Chana Nachenberg, was severely wounded, and remains in a permanent vegetative state almost 19 years later.
After leaving the bomber at the restaurant, Tamimi made her way home on a bus ferrying other Palestinians. In a later interview with Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television, she recalled hearing reports on the radio of the bombing coming in, and of initially being disappointed to hear that three people had been killed, as she had “hoped for a larger toll.”
“Two minutes later, they said on the radio that the number had increased to five. I wanted to hide my smile, but I just couldn’t,” she said. “Allah be praised, it was great. As the number of dead kept increasing, the passengers were applauding.”
Tamimi was later arrested, convicted in an Israeli court and sentenced to 16 life terms. But in 2011 Israel included her in a mass release of Palestinian prisoners exchanged for an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas and held in Gaza for five years. She flew to Jordan where she received a “hero’s welcome.”
In 2013 the Justice Department charged Tamimi with “conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the U.S., resulting in death” and quietly sought her extradition. Four years later the charges and an arrest warrant were unsealed.
But a Jordanian court rejected the request, ruling that the 1995 extradition treaty was unconstitutional since it had never ratified by Jordan’s parliament. The kingdom’s supreme court upheld that decision.
The U.S. government disputes Jordan’s claim about the treaty. The Jordan chapter of the State Department’s most recent report on terrorism says, in reference to the Tamimi case, “The United States regards the extradition treaty as valid.”
In a letter to Jordan’s ambassador to Washington in April, seven Republican lawmakers drew her attention to the sanctions provision in the spending legislation.
They also noted that, prior to the Tamimi case, Jordan had extradited terrorists to the U.S. multiple times, and argued that the claimed technical flaw to the treaty could surely be repaired.
Far from settle down quietly in Jordan after her release, Tamimi has held a high profile, the lawmakers pointed out, for four years presenting a weekly “Hamas-produced [TV] show advocating Palestinian terror.”
“Today, appallingly, Tamimi is a media celebrity, the subject of wide popular admiration,” they wrote. “She has appeared publicly side-by-side with prominent political figures and received extraordinary recognition in Jordan’s mainstream press and television media as a respected commentator and as an object of Jordanian national pride.”
Source: CNS News