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
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
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 very seriously.”
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.