FIVE years after the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) placed Jordanian Ahlam Tamimi on its Most Wanted Terrorists list, Israelis Arnold and Frimet Roth have repeated their calls for Tamimi, who took part in a 2001 Jerusalem bombing that killed their Australian-born daughter Malki, to be brought to justice in the US.
Tamimi helped to plan and took part in the Sbarro pizzeria bombing, in which 15 people were murdered and 130 injured. She was convicted by an Israeli military tribunal and was given multiple life sentences. But she was released in a 2011 prisoner exchange to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas.
However, speaking to The AJN, Arnold Roth pointed out that Israel commuted her sentence on the condition that she would not re-engage in incitement, something she soon openly flouted on returning to Jordan. In that country, she now enjoys celebrity status after hosting an internationally networked 2011-2016 TV talk show, and has trumpeted her lack of remorse over the deadly attack.
“Her unjust freedom – and the injustice it embodies – chokes us,” the Roths jointly stated on the fifth anniversary of the FBI listing.
In 2013, the US Justice Department filed charges against Tamimi based on US nationals who were victims of the Sbarro bombing. Malki was a US citizen through her American-born mother. Four years later, the charges were unsealed (made public) and the US asked for Tamimi’s extradition, but Jordan refused.
Jordan has long claimed its extradition treaty with the US was never ratified, but in late 2020, a freedom-of-information lawsuit by Malki’s parents against the US government yielded a document proving it was ratified, and that there are no legal obstacles to extraditing Tamimi. In fact, other Jordanians wanted in the US have been extradited.
Roth has also rejected assertions by Jordan that re-prosecuting Tamimi would breach the US constitutional prohibition on double jeopardy – trying someone for the same crime twice – and explained that this principle does not apply to prosecution in another country.
“In the years since Tamimi was formally charged in Washington, we have repeatedly pressed US officials to insist Jordan respects its extradition treaty obligation. All our efforts have failed,” the Roths stated.
“But as we keep working at this, our intention is not to let the bitter anniversary pass without our voices being heard.”
The Roths are urging the US to demand that Jordan honours its extradition treaty with Washington and releases Tamimi into American custody – or for the US to explain publicly why that cannot be done. Roth, who grew up in Melbourne before making aliyah, has also tried to get Canberra to intervene but has had no success in persuading either former PM Malcolm Turnbull or incumbent Scott Morrison to act. He is also trying to persuade the Israeli government to put pressure on Jordan.
“The absence of progress in bringing Tamimi to trial is especially striking, given that she is one of 25 individuals named as FBI Most Wanted Terrorists. In addition, she was recently named one of the top 20 most dangerous extremists around the world by the Counter Extremism Project.”
Roth said Tamimi and the leader of Al Qaeda are the only individuals on both lists.
Suggesting the US has leverage over Jordan, the Roths added, “Jordan has for years been among the three largest annual recipients of US foreign aid. It’s currently ranked number two.”
Roth said Tamimi’s spouse Nizar was recently declared persona non grata in Jordan and has moved to Qatar, but Tamimi has so far not followed him out of the country.
Malki, 15, was a talented musician and actively cared for her younger disabled sister. In August last year, the Roths marked 20 years since her murder.
Some weeks after Malki’s killing, the Roths founded the Jerusalem-based Malki Foundation, which supports Israeli families who care at home for a child with extreme disabilities.
Roth said so far some 20,000 people have signed a petition to have Tamimi extradited.