TEL AVIV (Oct. 30)
An alleged Palestinian terrorist ordered extradited to Israel from the United States arrived here Monday aboard a regular El Al passenger flight.
Mahmoud Abed Atta will stand trial for the machine-gun killing of an Israeli bus driver during an April 1986 attack by the Abu Nidal terror group in the Samaria district of the West Bank.
Atta’s attorneys claimed during extradition hearings in the United States that his was political act, rather than terrorism, and that therefore he should not be extradited.
The U.S. courts decided otherwise, clearing the way for Atta’s extradition two months ago. But Secretary of State James Baker delayed signing the extradition papers.
The warrant was finally signed last week by Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, but only after the Jerusalem Post alerted Washington that it would soon lapse, the newspaper claimed Tuesday.
A State Department official denied the Post’s story.
“It was the game plan all along to sign it,” the official said. But the United States wanted to delay doing so “until things cooled down a bit” in the wake of the Oct. 8 riots on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the official explained.
The extradition hearings prompted threats of increased terrorist activities in Europe and the Middle East.
(JTA correspondent Howard Rosenberg in Washington contributed to this report.)