Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri.
(photo credit: JAMAL ARURI / AFP)
There are still nearly 300 days until US President Barack Obama leaves office, but his potential successors are already receiving requests to take action against terrorists that his administration declined to take.
The legal organization Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center submitted a formal request in August 2014 to then-American attorney-general Eric Holder asking the Department of Justice to take all necessary steps to compel the government of Turkey to extradite Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri to face justice in the US for his role in the kidnapping and murder two months earlier of American-Israeli Naftali Fraenkel and Israelis Eyal Yifrah and Gil-Ad Shaer. More than a year and a half later, the lawyers did not receive a response, so they turned to the front-running candidates for president.
In a letter to Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton and Republican front-runner Donald Trump, Shurat Hadin lawyers Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Robert J. Tolchin, asked for their public support for their request that the US government seek the extradition and prosecution of terrorists who have been involved in the murder of American citizens abroad. In the letter, the lawyers informed the candidates about the circumstances of the abduction and murder of the three teens.
“On August 20, 2014, Saleh al-Arouri, speaking on behalf of Hamas at an Islamic conference in Turkey, boasted that the kidnapping and murder of Fraenkel, Yifrah and Shaer (which he called a “heroic operation”) was carried out by Hamas’s [armed wing] Izzadin Kassam in an attempt to arrange a ‘swap deal’ for the release of Hamas terrorists held by Israel,” the lawyers wrote. “It was from Turkey that Arouri planned and directed the Hamas operation that led to the kidnapping and murder of the three teenagers.”
The lawyers wrote that Israeli officials have stated that they “have no doubt that Arouri was connected” to the kidnappings and murders. Hamas member Hussam Kawasmeh, who operated under the control of Arouri and Hamas leader Fathi Hamad, was arrested and confessed to leading the local Hamas terror cell that kidnapped and murdered the three boys. He admitted that his nephew Marwan Kawasmeh and Amer Abu Aysha carried out the attack and that he had received over $60,000 in funding for the attack from Hamas.
“Over the past several years, a number of emissaries from Arouri have been arrested in the West Bank bringing money and written messages on behalf of Arouri explicitly directing the establishment of terror cells for kidnappings,” Darshan-Leitner and Tolchin wrote. “Israeli officials believe that Arouri has also played, and continues to play, a significant role in directing a number of more recent terrorist attacks and murders in the West Bank as well.”
Darshan-Leitner and Tolchin wrote that Arouri’s involvement in terrorist activity is well-known to the US government. They pointed out that in 2003, the Department of Justice named Arouri as a co-conspirator to first-degree murder, kidnapping and hostage taking, among other crimes, in a federal indictment of Hamas operatives.
More recently, on September 10, 2015, the Department of the Treasury listed Arouri as a specially designated global terrorist (“SDGT”) of Hamas, which identifies Arouri on its official website as a member of its politburo and a founding member of its military wing in the West Bank.
“Accordingly, we strongly urge the US government to investigate the kidnapping and murder of US citizen Naftali Fraenkel, and to seek the indictment and extradition of Saleh al-Arouri from Turkey for his role in that heinous crime,” they wrote.
“Turkey is obligated under the Treaty on Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Between the United States and Republic of Turkey, to grant extradition of requested individuals to the United States if the suspect committed a criminal act that would be punishable by Turkey had the offense been perpetrated within its territorial jurisdiction. The kidnapping and murder of Fraenkel clearly fulfill this requirement.
"We sincerely hope that you will lend your public support to our efforts to have Arouri extradited from Turkey and tried in the United States, and not allow the perpetrators of terror against United States citizens to remain at large when there exists a viable legal avenue to bring them to justice.”