52 co-signatories tell US A-G Eric Holder say those freed in Schalit deal who harmed Americans should be prosecuted.
A group of 52 congressmen and women called on US Attorney-General Eric Holder on Thursday to prosecute Palestinian terrorists responsible for killing and maiming Americans.
In a bipartisan letter sponsored by congressmen Joe Walsh (R-Illinois) and Howard Berman (D-California), the lawmakers said Israel released more than a dozen such terrorists in October 2011 as part of its deal with Hamas to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.
“Because of the circumstances of this forced release, their prosecution under American law is not precluded by principles of double jeopardy, and they should, if prosecuted, suffer the full consequences of having violated American law,” the letter says of those terrorists.Under the 1991 US Anti-Terror Act, the United States may prosecute foreign nationals who perpetrate terrorist acts against American citizens, even if those acts are not carried out on US soil. However, for prosecution to proceed, that law requires the written certification of the US attorney-general that the alleged offenses were intended to “coerce, intimidate or retaliate against a government or civilian population.”
The letter also slams as “disappointing” the US Department of Justice’s record regarding terrorism committed in Israel and its neighboring territories, saying that the US has never indicted, extradited or prosecuted any of the Palestinian terrorists responsible for perpetrating the 71 terrorist attacks since 1993 in which Americans were killed or injured.
“Murder and assault of American citizens anywhere in the world must be promptly and effectively punished by the United States in United States courts under United States law,” the letter says, asking Holder to prosecute terrorists or explain why such actions would be inappropriate.
Sarah N. Stern, founder and president of the Washington, DC-based pro-Israel think tank Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), began the bipartisan letter initiative, and told the Post that the US Department of Justice has “absolutely no excuse for not prosecuting these terrorists in American courts.”
“Not to do so makes a total mockery over president George [W.] Bush’s statement, ‘either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,’” Stern added.
As former national policy coordinator of the Zionist Organization of America, Stern says she helped push for the 2004 Koby Mandell Act to be passed, as a result of which the Department of Justice established a new department, the Office for Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism.
OJVOT’s mandate is to monitor the “investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks against Americans abroad.”
However, since OJVOT was established, it has assisted in the indictment of only one terrorist suspect, the killer of an American Christian missionary in Indonesia, the bipartisan letter to Holder points out.
Stern said she made her decision to initiate the bipartisan letter to Holder after a visit to Israel last October, when the government released 1,027 prisoners in the first wave of the Schalit deal.
Among the Palestinian terrorists released was Ahlam Tamimi, sentenced to 16 life terms for murder for her role in driving the suicide bomber who carried out the 2001 Sbarro restaurant bombing in Jerusalem. Two Americans were among the 15 people murdered in the attack: Judith Greenbaum, 31, from New Jersey, and 15-year-old Malki Roth from New York.
Stern said Tamimi had given an interview in prison, in which she expressed her delight in the terrorist attack and said she would do it again if she had the chance.
“She had erroneously though that the act had led to the death of four children. When told by the interviewer that it had led to the death of eight, an immediate smile of deep satisfaction came across her face,” Stern said, recalling Tamimi’s interview.
The bipartisan letter is the latest of a growing number of calls for the US to prosecute Palestinian terrorists released in the Schalit deal, including Tamimi.
Last month, the Parents Forum for Justice, a group of US citizens and parents whose children were murdered or maimed by Palestinian terrorists released under the Schalit deal, also called on Holder to prosecute those responsible for harming their families.
In an unrelated initiative last month, the ZOA also called on Holder to prosecute terrorists released in the Schalit deal who were responsible for attacks that killed and wounded Americans.
By JOANNA PARASZCZUK