US considers prosecuting Schalit deal terrorists

US Dep't of Justice continues investigating potential for prosecuting freed prisoners who harmed Americans.

March 19, 2012 01:49
3 minute read.
Freed Palestinian prisoner greets child

Freed Palestinian prisoner greets child_311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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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.

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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 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 terrorists.

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 responsibility.

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.

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