WASHINGTON (Oct. 20)
An FBI delegation has visited Israel to gather evidence with an eye toward extraditing Palestinians suspected of murdering American citizens to the United States.
The seven-member delegation began its trip this week by meeting with Israeli police and Justice Ministry officials.
In the last five years, Palestinian terrorists have killed 11 American citizens. The Palestinian Authority is holding at least nine suspects connected with these attacks, according to Israel officials.
After Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat refused Israeli requests for extradition, Jewish groups and some victims’ family members began calling on the United States to prosecute the terrorists.
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have promised to examine the possibility of such an arrangement, which is complicated by the lack of an extradition agreement between the Palestinian self-rule government and the United States.
An FBI team first traveled to Israel in March to begin collecting evidence from the terrorist attacks.
The 1996 anti-terrorism act permits the prosecution on American soil of suspects who allegedly killed U.S. citizens abroad.
In May the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution calling on President Clinton to address the matter.
Responding to this issue, 62 members of Congress sent a letter to Reno, asking her to investigate, indict and convict those who killed American citizens in terrorist attacks.
Morton Klein, executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, who has led the campaign for extradition said he was worried that “this is simply just a show to appease those of us who are deeply concerned about this issue.”
Klein said the FBI mission might show some movement but it is still “a far cry from what the Clinton administration should be doing.”
An arrangement to try the suspects in the United States could clear up a major sticking point in the Middle East peace talks under way near Washington. Arafat has refused to turn over Palestinians to the Israeli justice system. An American trial could clear the way for justice to be served without direct Israeli involvement.
FBI officials in Washington refused to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.