Trump Administration Weighs Cutting Aid to Pressure Jordan to Extradite Convicted Terrorist

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is increasing its pressure on Jordan to extradite a Palestinian-Jordanian involved in the murder of U.S. citizens who has been living in that country since her release from an Israeli prison nine years ago.

On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that the White House is considering withholding or cutting military aid to Jordan if it continues to refuse to extradite Ahlam Tamimi, who the United States wants to try for her role in a 2001 suicide bombing in a Jerusalem pizza parlor.

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Tamimi was convicted of being one of the organizers of that attack, which killed 15 people, including two U.S. citizens. She was sentenced to 16 life sentences by an Israeli court in 2003, but was released from prison in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange deal in which the government released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas.

After her early release from prison, Tamimi moved to Jordan, where most of her family resides. Over the past nine years, she has become a public persona there, appearing on television programs and giving media interviews. Throughout, the parents of Malki Roth, a 15-year-old Israeli and American dual citizen who was murdered in the Jerusalem attack, have waged a public campaign demanding that she face trial in the U.S.

Jordan and the U.S. have a joint extradition agreement, but Jordan’s reply to the growing pressure over the years to extradite Tamimi has been that the agreement is invalid. Last year, the State Department rejected the Jordanian claim and insisted in a written report that the extradition agreement was valid and applied to Tamimi’s case. 

The aftermath of the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in Jerusalem in August, 2001.Eyal Warshavsky

The U.S. filed terrorism-related charges against Tamimi in 2017, but just days later, Jordan’s highest court ruled that Jordanian law prohibited her extradition. Ever since, Jordan has consistently refused to take any action regarding the extradition request.

In September, two senior members of Congress were pressing the Trump administration to act on the subject. Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee, and Republican Congressman Doug Collins, the committee’s ranking member, sent a joint letter seeking answers to the Justice Department.