DOJ: ‘Significant impediments’ to prosecuting prisoners released in Shalit deal


WASHINGTON (JTA) — A U.S. Department of Justice official reiterated that there are “significant impediments” to pursuing criminal charges against Palestinian terrorists  freed in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

In a March 16 email sent to members of the Parents Forum for Justice, the director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism acknowledged the importance of potential prosecution to the victims but explained the possible obstacles.

“We are taking this matter very seriously and continue to examine the potential for any United States prosecution; however, we want you to be aware that there are significant impediments to pursuing criminal charges in the United States court system for these particular foreign-based attacks,” Heather Cartwright said in her e-mail, which was obtained by JTA. The email was first reported by The Jerusalem Post.

The Parents Forum for Justice is a group of American citizens and parents whose children were killed or wounded by Palestinian terrorists in Israel.

On Jan. 19, the Parents Forum sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing concern that the U.S. has not prosecuted Palestinian prisoners with American blood on their hands under U.S. anti-terrorism laws after they were released by Israel in exchange for Shalit.

Under U.S. anti-terrorism law, the U.S. can prosecute foreign nationals who commit terrorist acts against U.S. citizens outside of the country, but would need written certification from the attorney general.

Cartwright echoed comments made by Holder in an earlier letter about the U.S. concern with the release of the prisoners.

Cartwright noted in the email that the U.S. “urged the Government of Israel … not to release prisoners responsible for murdering or injuring United States citizens prior to the completion of their full sentences” and “the early release of some of those prisoners is something with which we strongly disagree.”

In addition, Cartwright emphasized that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which prosecutes many of these cases, hopes to schedule meetings in the coming weeks with injured victims of released prisoners, both in the U.S. and Israel.

Dr. Alan Bauer, leader of the Parents for Justice, expressed his disappointment to JTA about the email sent from Cartwright, calling it “extraordinarily patronizing.”

“Cartwright’s proposed meetings are nothing more than a smokescreen to make it look like they are really serious and really busy; they are not,” Bauer told JTA. “They have no intention of bringing anyone to justice; a couple dozen broken and devastated families is only good enough to get a form letter off of the attorney general’s desk.”

Bauer, who with his son was injured in a 2002 suicide bombing in Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Post that there have been 72 American victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks, but the U.S. has never been successful in prosecuting any of them.

More than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were freed in last October’s’ exchange for Shalit, who had been held captive for more than five years.

Recommended from JTA