Menu JTA Search

Israel to pursue extradition as Hamas issues threat to U.S.

NEW YORK, Jan. 29 (JTA) — Israeli officials say they intend to pursue the extradition of a Hamas leader from the United States after he withdrew his appeal of the initiative. Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook could be sent back to Israel within 60 days to stand trial, despite warnings that it would provoke Hamas violence. “Israel still insists on its request,” said Gideon Mark, spokesman for the Israeli Consulate in New York. “We believe he is responsible for many Hamas activities and think he should be brought to court” in Israel. Marzook’s lawyers announced Wednesday that their client had dropped his challenge to the Israeli request because he claims he is a political prisoner who could not get a fair trial here. They said he had lost his faith in the U.S. justice system after being imprisoned for 18 months and not being charged with a crime. The Hamas movement in Gaza reportedly warned the United States the same day that if it extradited Marzook, America would become an enemy of “Islamic people everywhere.” “We warn the USA that it will bear the whole responsibility of the status of unrest which will emerge as a result of handing Dr. Marzook to Israel,” a Hamas leader was quoted saying in Gaza City. A State Department spokesman said Wednesday that there were currently no plans to intervene and halt the extradition out of fear that it would damage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He said the matter is now in the hands of the Justice Department. U.S. officials arrested Marzook, the head of the political arm of Hamas, in July 1995 at a New York airport when he tried to re-enter the United States, where he had been living for many years. Israel requested the extradition, charging that Marzook was engaged in a conspiracy to commit murder and other crimes against Israelis and raised money for the military wing of Hamas. Last May, a federal judge ordered the extradition, saying that there was “more than sufficient evidence” to support the charges. He ruled that Marzook should be held in a New York federal prison until he was turned over to Israeli authorities. Marzook argued that his activities were political and therefore were not an extraditable offense, but the judge refused to allow a hearing on his argument. The decision was upheld by another judge in October. Marzook appealed the rulings. At a news conference Wednesday, lawyers played a tape of Marzook’s comments. “It is clear that a Palestinian and Muslim cannot expect the same American quality of justice as others when Israeli interests are involved,” he said. “Ultimately, I may stand a better chance before Israeli judges than before New York judges.