JERUSALEM (May. 24)
The Justice Ministry may ask the courts to decide whether Israel should comply with an American request for the extradition of 23-year-old Tuvya Schwartz to stand trial for a crime he allegedly committed two years ago. Schwartz, now a soldier in the Israeli army and a resident of Beersheba, immigrated to Israel from Los Angeles.
He and a friend, David Whitlaw, were charged with fire-bombing a car belonging to John Artukovic, a San Francisco contractor who is the brother of Andrea Artukovic, said to have served as Interior Minister of the Nazi puppet government of Croatia during World War II.
The latter is held responsible for the deaths of large numbers of Jews, Croatians and Gypsies during the Nazi occupation. His brother allegedly gave him refuge in the U.S. which provoked the fire-bombing of his car.
Whitlaw stood trial and was imprisoned. Schwartz fled to Israel where he married a kibbutz girl and joined the army. His case has created a public furore here. Six Knesset members have submitted an urgent agenda motion against extradition and the issue is expected to be debated in the Knesset shortly. If the courts rule that Schwartz could be extradited, the Justice Minister can nevertheless decide otherwise. The affair, however, has created a conflict between Israel’s Law of Return and its extradition agreements with other nations.
Meanwhile, Bob Hecht, a Houston, Texas businessman and friend of Schwartz’s family in the U.S., has reportedly taken legal measures aimed at blocking extradition.