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Israel Clears Way for Extradition of American Linked to 1980 Killing

Following years of legal wrangling, Israel has approved the extradition to the United States of Robert Manning, an American Jew accused, together with his wife, in connection with a 1980 mail-bombing that resulted in the death of a secretary in California.

Justice Minister David Libai signed the extradition last Friday, but said its execution would be delayed a month, pending the completion of an appeal to the Supreme Court by Manning’s wife, Rochelle, against her extradition.

The Supreme Court, in a decision five months ago, already rejected an appeal by Robert Manning against his extradition.

The justice minister was given assurances by American officials that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty for Robert Manning, according to Justice Ministry spokeswoman Etty Eshed.

If a death sentence were to be imposed by a U.S. court, it would not be carried out, Israel was promised, Eshed said.

The assurances are significant, since Israel’s extradition agreements stipulate they are only valid in cases not involving a death penalty.

The Mannings are wanted in connection with the killing of Patricia Wilkerson, an employee of a computer firm in Manhattan Beach, Calif. The Mannings were apparently in a dispute with the firm. It is believed the bomb had been intended for Wilkerson’s employer.

The couple’s fingerprints were found on parts of the wrapping of the mail-bomb package.

The Mannings are also wanted for questioning in connection with the case of Alex Odeh, a leader of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee killed in 1985 in Santa Ana, Calif.

CAUSE TAKEN UP BY ORTHODOX

Since moving to Israel, the Mannings have lived in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba with their two daughters.

The couple were arrested in March 1991, following a U.S. extradition request, but the case has been held up by appeals ever since.

The cause of the Mannings, now Orthodox Jews, has now been taken up by Orthodox and right-wing circles here in Israel on the grounds that Jews should not be extradited by Israel to stand trial before non-Jewish courts abroad.

It is also argued that the religious requirements of the Orthodox may not be fully met in foreign jails.

The Israeli Supreme Court is still hearing the appeal of Rochelle Manning, based on grounds that she was already tried in the United States for the Wilkerson slaying. A hung jury in 1989 failed to convict her.

Robert Manning was found guilty in absentia, when he was already living in Israel.

Rochelle Manning’s extradition hearing here is scheduled for July 4.

Rabbi Kenneth Cohen, a local clergyman who has been active in the fight to quash extradition orders on the couple, said Saturday night that another appeal to the Supreme Court would be filed on Robert Manning’s behalf.

This latest appeal, Cohen said, would be on grounds that Robert Manning’s religious needs, including the provision for kosher food, will not be sufficiently met while he is in custody in the United States.

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