US still seeks ex-Palestinian prisoner’s extradition from Jordan

Biden administration says it wants to extradite Ahlam al-Tamimi to face charges in US for 2001 Jerusalem pizzeria attack.

The United States has said ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank that it is still seeking the extradition from Jordan of a Palestinian woman convicted of aiding in a bomb attack in Jerusalem in 2001.

The family of an Israeli-American girl killed in the attack has urged Biden to press Jordan, a close US ally, to send Ahlam al-Tamimi to the US for trial.

“We ask that you address this as only the leader of the United States can,” Frimet and Arnold Roth, the parents of Malki Roth, who was 15 when she was killed in the bombing, wrote in a letter.

Al-Tamimi was released by Israel in a 2011 prisoner exchange with the Palestinian group Hamas and sent to Jordan, where she currently lives.

“The US government continues to seek her extradition and the Government of Jordan’s assistance in bringing her to justice for her role in the heinous attack,” the National Security Council said on Monday, according to The Associated Press news agency.

A Palestinian attacker killed 15 people at a Jerusalem pizzeria in 2001, including Malki Roth and another US citizen. Ahlam al-Tamimi, who was accused of choosing the target and guiding the bomber there, was arrested weeks later and subsequently sentenced by Israel to 16 life terms.

“From a Palestinian, as well as international law perspective, it is perfectly legitimate to resist the Israeli occupation,” al-Tamimi told Al Jazeera in an interview in 2017.

“We only wanted freedom for our country, not to kill Israelis or others for the sake of killing.”

In 2017, the US Justice Department charged al-Tamimi with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against Americans. She potentially faces the death penalty if extradited and convicted. Her name was also added to the FBI’s list of “Most Wanted Terrorists”.

Jordanian courts rejected the US extradition request in 2017.

The apparent renewed US efforts to extradite al-Tamimi comes amid pressure by press freedom and human rights groups on the Biden administration to ensure accountability for the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was a US citizen.

Abu Akleh was the second American citizen to be killed by Israeli forces this year. Omar Assad, an elderly Palestinian American, died after being arbitrarily detained by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank in January.

While verbally calling for accountability in both cases, the Biden administration has done little – at least publicly – to pressure Israel to bring the two Americans’ killers to justice.

Earlier this month, Washington said the killing of Abu Akleh was the unintentional “result of tragic circumstances”.

Last week, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib slammed the State Department for its handling of the killing.

“This much is clear – the State Department has comprehensively failed to carry out its mission as it relates to the murders of an American citizen,” Tlaib said in a statement. “This failure sends a clear message to the world: some American lives are worth more than others, and some ‘allies’ have license to kill with impunity.”

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