US considers prosecuting Schalit deal terrorists (JERUSALEM POST) By JOANNA PARASZCZUK 03/19/12)
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The US Department of Justice is continuing to ‘examine the potential’
for prosecuting terrorists who harmed Americans and were freed in
exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, The Jerusalem Post
learned on Sunday.
In an email sent on Friday to US citizens who had been harmed by
terrorists released last October in the Schalit exchange with Hamas,
Heather Cartwright, director of the Department of Justice’s Office of
Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism, said the United States
Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the prosecutorial
office responsible for these cases, plans to meet with US victims of
terrorist acts involving Schalit deal prisoners.
The district attorney will schedule meetings with victims in both
Israel and the US, Cartwright said.
In her letter, which the Post has seen, Cartwright said the
Department of Justice is “taking the matter of prosecuting terrorists
However, she added that there are “significant impediments to
pursuing criminal charges in the United States court system for these
particular foreign-based attacks.”
Cartwright also noted that the US had opposed Israel’s decision to
release the terrorists as part of the Schalit deal.
“[P]rior to the government of Israel’s release of prisoners, the
Department of Justice opposed the early release of any individuals
who had been convicted of crimes that resulted in the death of, or
injury to, United States citizens,” she wrote.
“Accordingly, the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv, together with
the Department of Justice and the Department of State, urged the
government of Israel – prior to the releases in question – not to
release prisoners responsible for murdering or injuring United States
citizens prior to the completion of their full sentences.”
Cartwright’s letter comes amid growing calls for the US to use its
strict anti-terrorism laws to indict and prosecute those released in
the Schalit deal who are responsible for killing or maiming Americans.
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.”
In January, the Parents Forum for Justice, a group of US citizens and
parents whose children were murdered or maimed by terrorists released
in the Schalit deal called on US Attorney-General Eric Holder to
prosecute those responsible. In an unrelated initiative later in
January, the Zionist Organization of America also asked Holder to
prosecute the freed terrorists.
Last month, a bipartisan letter signed by 52 members of Congress also
called on Holder to prosecute the same group of Palestinian
That letter also slammed as “disappointing” the Department of
Justice’s record regarding Palestinian terrorism and noted that since
the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism, whose
mandate is to monitor the “investigation and prosecution of
terrorists attacks against Americans abroad,” was established in
2005, it has assisted in the indictment of only one terrorism
suspect, the killer of an American Christian missionary in Indonesia.
Dr. Alan Bauer, a Jerusalem resident and leader of Parents for
Justice, slammed Cartwright’s response as a disappointment.
Bauer and his son Yehonathon, both American citizens, were among
those severely wounded in the March 21, 2002, King George Street
suicide bombing in Jerusalem, for which Fatah’s Aksa Brigades claimed
Sana’a Shehadeh and Qahara al-Saadi, two women who helped perpetrate
that bombing, which claimed the lives of three people and injured 86
others, were both freed in the Schalit deal.
In a response to Cartwright, Bauer said that he and other terrorism
victims had discussed the issue of Israel’s potentially releasing
terrorists with American blood on their hands since 2008, and noted
that the US could not have expected Israel to agree to its “late
hour” request not to release the Schalit deal prisoners.
Bauer added he hoped the meetings with the US district attorney would
discuss progress toward indictments, but that “if the goal is simply
to shut us up from our 10- year constant nagging, then I see no
purpose in such a gettogether.”
Speaking to the Post on Sunday, Bauer said that there have been 72
American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks, but the US has
never had a successful prosecution.
“During the same period, Israel extradited over a dozen non-Arab
criminals to the US,” he added. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post
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