Photo Credit: WH.gov
Jordan's King Abdullah II, US President Donald Trump at joint White House news briefing

According to a White House statement, Trump is meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah:

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will welcome Their Majesties King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan to the White House on June 25, 2018. President Trump looks forward to reaffirming the strong bonds of friendship between the United States and Jordan. The leaders will discuss issues of mutual concern, including terrorism, the threat from Iran and the crisis in Syria, and working towards a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. [emphasis added]

This follows a Friday meeting, Secretary of State Pompeo met with Jordan’s King Abdullah for lunch.

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King Abdullah and Secretary of State Pompeo
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The US and Jordan are supposed to be allies – in fact, Jordan is arguably our second strongest ally in the Middle East after Israel. No wonder talking about cooperation against terrorism is on the agenda.

The website of the Jordanian embassy to the US makes clear the relationship between the two countries:

JORDAN-US RELATIONS OVERVIEW

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations more than six decades ago, Jordan and the United States have enjoyed strong relations based on common goals and mutual respect. The relationship has endured the complexities and volatilities of the Middle East and has demonstrated that the two countries can rely on each other as allies and partners.

…Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, Jordan stood with the U.S. in its effort to combat the common threat of terrorism and radical ideology. The two sides have worked together and with the international community to rid the world of the scourge of terrorism and end the threat posed to the national security of both countries.

This close relationship between Jordan and the US combined with Jordan’s self-proclaimed dedication to fighting terrorism leads to the obvious question:

Why does Jordan refuse to extradite the Hamas terrorist that murdered 3 American citizens to the US?

The Background

On Aug. 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi, a Palestinian woman transported suicide bomber Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri, a member of Hamas military wing Iz a Din al-Kassam, to the Sbarro restaurant. Fifteen people were killed, including 8 children and a pregnant women. Over 120 were injured. Three of those killed were US citizens. Tamimi was later captured and sentenced to 16 life terms in prison. She never expressed any remorse. On the contrary, in a video interview, she smiled and expressed satisfaction with the number of murders she accomplished.

Here, she explains how she did more than just transport the suicide bomber — Ahlam Tamimi masterminded the Sbarro massacre:

From The Palestinian Media Watch translation:

Israeli interviewer: “Who chose Sbarro [restaurant, as the target of the attack]?”

Tamimi: “I did. For nine days I examined the place very carefully and chose it after seeing the large number of patrons at the Sbarro restaurant. I didn’t want to blow [myself] up, I didn’t want to carry out a Martyrdom-seeking operation (i.e., a suicide attack). My mission was just to choose the place and to bring the Martyrdom-seeker (i.e., the suicide bomber). [I made] the general plan of the operation, but carrying it out was entrusted to the Martyrdom-seeker. … I told him to enter the restaurant, eat a meal, and then after 15 minutes carry out the Martyrdom-seeking operation. During the quarter of an hour, I would return the same way that I had arrived. Then I bade him farewell.

In October 2011, as part of the deal to free Hamas hostage Gilad Shalit, Ahlam Tamimi was one of those released. She returned to her native Jordan where she lived all her life, until about two years before she carried out the terrorist attack. Tamimi is now a celebrity throughout the Arab world, and was a host on a weekly show on the Hamas satellite TV station, Al Quds, where she extolled the virtues of “martyrdom attacks” against Jews and celebrated what she did. Only recently did she stop hosting the broadcasts, apparently in response to the extradition request, waiting for the situation to calm things down.

Last year, the US unsealed an indictment for the extradition of Ahlam Tamimi to the US to stand trial for the murder of the 3 American citizens murdered in the suicide bombing she masterminded.

Jordan refused.

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Wanted Poster for Ahlam Ahmad Al-Tamimi

The State Department’s Rewards For Justice program posted a $5 million reward for “information that brings to justice” Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi.

Jordan’s Extradition Treaty With The US

Jordan’s extradition treaty with the US goes back to 1995.

On February 26, 1993, a truck bomb containing 1,336 pounds of urea nitrate–hydrogen was detonated below the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The detonation was intended to murder tens of thousands of people. Though the plot failed, it did kill six people and injured over a thousand. Four men were convicted. Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the bombing fled to Pakistan and Eyad Ismoil, who drove the truck carrying the bomb, escaped to Jordan.

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Eyad Ismoil, who drove the truck in the World Trade Center Bombing

In order to extradite Ismoil from Jordan, the US and Jordan signed an extradition treaty. Based on that treaty, US agents were allowed to go onto Jordanian soil where the Jordanians handed Islmoil over, to be brought back to the US for trial. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to life.

The Argument Against Extradition: Jordan Does Not Extradite Nationals

One of the reasons given for Jordan’s refusal to extradite Ahlam Tamimi to the US to stand trial for the murder of 2 Americans is the claim that Jordan does not extradite Jordanian nationals, citizens of Jordan. In 2015, Arutz Sheva quoted an unnamed Jordanian source who told AFP that

Jordan does not usually extradite its citizens to other countries, even in the case of an extradition agreement. In such a case, they are generally tried in specialized Jordanian courts.

Al Jazeera has reported that “Jordanian courts have said their constitution does not allow for the extradition of Jordanian nationals.”

Not true.

First, there is nothing in the Jordanian Constitution that forbids the extradition of Jordanian nationals. According to Article 21:

(i) Political refugees shall not be extradited on account of their political beliefs or for their defence of liberty.

(ii) Extradition of ordinary criminals shall be regulated by international agreements and laws.

Extradition is excluded as a possibility in the case of political refugees on account of their political beliefs, which does not apply in this case — though Stephen Flatow, whose own daughter was murdered by Palestinian terrorists, accuses the Jordanian government of a cynical interpretation:

Get it? If the Jordanian government is claiming that its constitution forbids extraditing Tamimi, it has to claim that the Sbarro massacre was a “political” crime. That’s outrageous.”

More to the point, the second point in Article 21 states that extradition is regulated by international agreements and laws.

On the issue of nationality, the extradition treaty is very clear:

Article 3

Nationality

If all conditions in this Treaty relating to extradition are met, extradition shall not be refused based on the nationality of the person sought.

The Argument Against Extradition: Double Jeopardy

Last year, when the indictment was unsealed, the Associated Press reported that Ahlam Tamimi claimed ‘double jeopardy’:

She said the U.S. has no right to charge her, arguing that she was already tried and sentenced in Israel. “How come I should be returned to jail again for the same charge,” she said Tuesday.

Former federal prosecutor and Washington lawyer Nathan Lewin counters arguments against the extradition – including this one:

Nor could Jordan or any other requested country invoke the bar against double jeopardy that appears in many extradition treaties to prevent second punishment after a criminal prosecution for the extraditable offense has been conducted and fully carried out. That provision obviously does not prevent extradition of a fugitive who flees a country where he has been convicted in order to avoid imprisonment. It also should not prevent extradition if, by some other unlawful means such as Hamas’ extortionate demand, the criminal process is aborted.

In addition, the US charge against Tamimi is not the same as the one she faced in Israel:

A criminal complaint was unsealed today charging Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi, also known as “Khalti” and “Halati,” a Jordanian national in her mid-30s, with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals outside the U.S., resulting in death.

The Argument Against Extradition: Jordanian Parliament Never Ratified The 1995 Extradition Treaty

The Jordanian Court of Cassation ruled that the original extradition treaty was never ratified by the Jordanian parliament. This argument appears the strongest, if also the oddest. The treaty was the foundation of the extradition of Jordanian national Eyad Ismoil, with US agents arriving in Jordan to pick him up. How could that happen if there was no treaty?

In his book Relentless Pursuit: The DSS and the Manhunt for the Al-Qaeda Terrorists, Samuel M. Katz claims that enforcing the treaty was too much for Jordan to put up with:

The handover of Eyad Mahmoud Ismoil Najim was a political hand grenade in Jordan. The first extraditions ever of a Jordanian national accused of a terrorist crime against the United States would also be the last. A week after the extra Eyad Mahmoud Ismoil Najim to the United States, the Jordanian Parliament scrapped the treaty.

There needs to be further investigation into the validity of this claim, especially in light of the Vienna Convention which seems to directly address Jordan’s claim — and rejects it:

Article 46

Provisions of internal law regarding competence to conclude treaties

1. A State may not invoke the fact that its consent to be bound by a treaty has been expressed in violation of a provision of its internal law regarding competence to conclude treaties as invalidating its consent unless that violation was manifest and concerned a rule of its internal law of fundamental importance.

2. A violation is manifest if it would be objectively evident to any State conducting itself in the matter in accordance with normal practice and in good faith.

In addition, last year Michelle Munneke, an assistant district attorney, wrote Pressure on Jordan: Refusal to extradite mastermind of deadly 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing in Jerusalem contravenes international law and agreements, arguing that Jordan’s refusal to honor the treaty contravenes the “principles of international comity,” analyzing the legal justifications given for refusing to extradite Tamimi — and disproving them.

She concludes:

This analysis means the United States should not give up on attempting to extradite Al-Tamimi. If other countries place enough pressure on Jordan due to concerns of Al-Tamimi’s danger and susceptibility to planning another attack, Jordan may change its position. Al-Tamimi is above all else, a significant danger that Jordan should take seriously—if not for the world, for Jordan’s own citizens that live amongst Al-Tamimi.

An additional issue is the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, to which Jordan is a signatory.

Even if we take at face value Jordan’s claim that there is no extradition treaty, that does not leave Jordan off the hook for harboring an admitted Hamas terrorist.

According to Article 2:

Any person commits an offence within the meaning of this Convention if that person by any means, directly or indirectly, unlawfully and wilfully, provides or collects funds with the intention that they should be used or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in full or in part, in order to carry out:

(a) An act which constitutes an offence within the scope of and as defined in one of the treaties listed in the annex; or

(b) Any other act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act. [emphasis added]

The Convention goes on to describe extradition:

Article 11.2:

When a State Party which makes extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty receives a request for extradition from another State Party with which it has no extradition treaty, the requested State Party may, at its option, consider this Convention as a legal basis for extradition in respect of the offences set forth in article 2. Extradition shall be subject to the other conditions provided by the law of the requested State. [emphasis added]

Article 12.1:

States Parties shall afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with criminal investigations or criminal or extradition proceedings in respect of the offences set forth in article 2, including assistance in obtaining evidence in their possession necessary for the proceedings. [emphasis added]

Now, Jordan did enter reservations about what it found unacceptable about the Convention:

The Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan does not consider acts of national armed struggle and fighting foreign occupation in the exercise of people’s right to self-determation as terrorist acts within the context of paragraph 1(b) of article 2 of the Convention.

Looks like Stephen Flatow’s suspicion of Jordan’s cynical approach to fighting terrorism was correct.

If so, it is time for Jordan to clearly state that it is defending Tamimi and preventing her facing justice is based on Jordan’s considering Tamimi’s terrorist attack on the Sbarro pizzeria to be a heroic act of national armed struggle.

In any case, this makes the Jordanian claim that an extradition treaty that was used in the past is suddenly non-existent suspicious, to say the least.

Conclusion

While King Abdullah II of Jordan likes to talk about trust and confidence, the king is going out of his way to avoid building it with his refusal to fulfill his obligations under the US-Jordanian extradition treaty and handing over Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi to the US. His actions, or in this case – inaction, speaks louder than the convenient statements of friendship and alliance. When we add Jordan’s reliance on the US for the financial assistance required to maintain his kingdom, this sense of obligation only increases. The US government has made clear that it is serious about prosecuting Ahlam Tamimi. It remains for King Abdullah to demonstrate that he really is serious when he claims to be an ally in fighting terrorism.

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