(JTA) — The United States asked Israel to take and prosecute a Kenyan imprisoned at Guantánamo implicated in the 2002 attack on Israelis in Mombasa, Kenya, but the proposed transfer has hit a snag over reported FBI foot dragging.
A report on the existence of talks to deliver Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu, 43, for trial in Israel after nearly 10 years at Guantánamo appeared Thursday in the Miami Herald.
Israel is awaiting cooperation from the FBI, whose agents interviewed Abdul Malik sometime after he was sent to Guantánamo in March 2007, according to the report. It also said the request to Israel came from the Obama administration.
But three sources said the FBI has failed to furnish the Israelis with information from its interrogations, the Herald reported.
“The government of Israel has repeatedly asked for information to support their possible prosecution. But for reasons that are unclear, the FBI has declined,” an unnamed U.S. government official told the Herald. “They want to see the incriminating statements. And that’s where we are stuck — and have been for many months — which is frustrating.”
A leaked May 2007 prison profile describes Abdul Malik Bajabu as having “admitted that he participated in the planning and execution” of two terrorist attacks that targeted Israelis on the same day, Nov. 28, 2002, in Mombasa, the Herald reported.
A car bombing of the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel killed 13 people, mostly Kenyans, around the same time an unsuccessful surface-to-air missile attack targeted an Israeli Arkia airliner carrying 271 passengers near the Mombasa airport.
Abdul Malik Bajabu has never been charged with a crime in the Pentagon war court. In June, the Obama administration’s parole-style board for uncharged captives declared him too dangerous to release.
Obama administration officials involved in the effort to close Guantánamo prison describe the effort as part of White House-encouraged “creative thinking” to find places to prosecute unreleasable captives.
With just 20 of the 59 captives now held at Guantánamo approved for release, and another 10 charged at the war court, the administration has been brainstorming about where and how to transfer the inmates. Congress has forbidden relocation in the United States.
Reached by the Herald, Abdul Malik Bajabu’s attorney, Darin Thompson, declined to comment on the proposed deal.
According to three government officials, the State Department’s special envoy for the closure of Guantánamo, Lee Wolosky, traveled to Israel in April and met with senior officials who “expressed interest” in the case. Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu was not among those he met, the Herald reported.
The official, who called the situation “frustrating,” also said the White House had specifically requested that the Department of Justice get the FBI to cooperate.
“We have no comment on our communications with foreign governments,” FBI spokesman Andy Ames said. Department of Justice spokesmen did not respond to multiple requests for information.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, declined through an aide to discuss the reported deal.