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US mulls prosecution of Schalit deal prisoners
By JOANNA PARASZCZUK
20/04/2012
FBI, US Justice Dept. "reviewing info" about prisoners freed in Schalit deal for "potential prosecution," 'Post' learns.
 
The US is reviewing terror attacks linked to Palestinian security prisoners released in exchange for soldier Gilad Schalit, for further investigation and potential prosecution in US courts, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Those involved include the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. However, according to US Assistant Attorney-General Ronald Weich, there are “significant impediments” to prosecuting Palestinian terrorists in the US who are connected to attacks in which Americans are killed or maimed.

Weich made his remarks in a letter earlier this month to a group of congressmen and - women who called on US Attorney-General Eric Holder to prosecute Palestinian terrorists responsible for killing and maiming Americans.

In that bipartisan letter, sponsored by congressmen Joe Walsh (R-Ilinois) and Howard Berman (D-California), the congressmen noted that Israel had released more than a dozen such terrorists in October 2011 as part of its deal with Hamas to free the kidnapped Schalit.

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.”

However, in his response, Weich said that terrorist attacks in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza “present particular challenges,” including collecting evidence that is admissible in US courts.

“[For] Israeli officials, the focus following an attack is often, understandably, on clearing the crime scene to minimize disruption, taking steps to prevent a further attack, and neutralizing the operatives responsible rather than on collecting evidence consistent with the standards required for prosecution in the United States,” he wrote, adding that “obstacles relating to the chain of custody of evidence and admissibility of confessions often preclude United States prosecution.”

Significantly, he said Holder had raised the issue of the Schalit-deal releases in a recent meeting with Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein, in which Holder discussed the “importance of cooperation in pursuing justice for the American victims.”

Weinstein’s office said on Thursday that it could not confirm the content of the attorney-general’s meeting with Holder.

In recent months, there have been a growing number of calls for the US to prosecute Palestinian terrorists who went free in the Schalit deal.

In January, the Parents Forum for Justice, a group of US citizens and parents whose children were murdered or maimed by those terrorists, also called on Holder to prosecute those responsible for harming their families.

In an unrelated initiative in January, the Zionist Organization of America called on Holder to prosecute the Schalit-deal terrorists responsible for attacks that killed and wounded Americans.

In March, the Justice Department’s Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism said the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the prosecutorial office responsible for these cases, was planning to meet with US victims of terrorist acts involving Schalit-deal prisoners.
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