LOS ANGELES (Aug. 23)
A U.S. Justice Department official has denied published reports that Israel has stonewalled American requests to extradite suspected criminals wanted for trial in the United States.
At the same time, the official declined comment on whether his department has formally asked Israel to extradite Robert Steven Manning, a West Bank resident, who is charged with participating in a mail-bomb murder in Los Angeles in 1980.
Roger Yochelson, senior trial attorney in the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, said in a phone interview from Washington that since 1965, five people have been extradited from Israel to the United States, and others have agreed to return voluntarily.
Significantly, some of those in the group–including at least one person holding Israeli citizenship–were extradited after 1977, when Israel passed a law prohibiting the extradition of its nationals to any other country.
According to reports in The Jerusalem Post and the Los Angeles Times last month, U.S. officials were angry that Israel has habitually dragged its feet in extraditing suspected criminals, despite the joint extradition treaty signed by the two countries over 30 years ago.
In the Manning case, the prosecuting U.S. attorney, Nancy Wieben Stock, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that a provisional arrest warrant, the first step in the extradition process, has been sought from Israeli authorities.
Yochelson declined to confirm or deny this action, or any other matter pertaining to the extradition.
“It is up to Israel to make the first announcement,” he said, adding that a case usually becomes public when the suspect is arrested at his place of residence.
MAILED BOMBING DEVICE
A federal grand jury has indicted Manning, 36, and his wife, Rochelle, 48, on charges that they mailed a disguised bomb device to a Los Angeles computer firm, with the intention of killing its owner.
The package was opened by a secretary, who was killed instantly.
Both Mannings were members of the Jewish Defense League in 1980 and allegedly concocted the bomb scheme at the behest of William Ross, a wealthy JDL supporter.
The government charges that Ross was involved in a bitter real estate dispute with Brenda Crouthamel, the owner of the computer firm at the time.
Robert Manning has also been named as a prime suspect in the 1985 bomb slayings of Alex Odeh, an Arab-American activist in Los Angeles, and Tscherim Soobsokov, an alleged Nazi war criminal.
Manning and his wife emigrated to Israel in 1973, where they hold dual American and Israeli citizenship.
Rochelle Manning was arrested in June at the Los Angeles International Airport as she and her two children arrived on a plane from Israel.
A trial date for Ross and the two Mannings has been set for Nov. 1 in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.