My attention was first drawn to Post stafff writer James Naughtie's story of July 24 ["Palestinian, Jailed in Chicago, Fighting Extradition to Israel"] on Ziad Abu Eain, a 21-year-old Palestinian whose extradition is being sought by Israel, by Naughtie's description of the case as Israel's "first request" under the U.S.-Israeli extradition treaty of 1963. In 1972 I represented in Israeli whose extradition was successfully sought, on fraud charges, by the Israeli government. Tuus stirred, I obtained a copy of the petition filed by Abu Eain's lawyers in the Supreme Court. A public document, it contains the decisions of the lower courts and some of the evidence, including an alleged accomplice's confession. It was shocking to discover the omissions, errors and distortions included in Naughtie's report.
The article speaks eight times of the "bombing" or "explosion" in Tiberias of May 14, 1979. The bombing, during a youth rally, killed two young boys and injured 36 others; the charge against Abu Eain is murder. Nowhere is this specified in Naughtie's article.
Naughtie says that 1) the extradition request is "based solely" on the confession of an accomplice, 2) the critical confession was obtained after the accomplice "spent weeks in custody without seeing an attorney," and 3) the confession was in Hebrew, "a language the alleged accomplice does not speak, read nor understand."
Actually, the Court of Appeals' opinion, written by Circuit Judge Harlington Wood Jr., said that the accomplice's confession was not the only evidence of Abu Eainhs guilt. It was corrborated by an earlier statement from the accomplice's cousin concerning an incriminating note that the accomplice sent through her to Abu Eain after the bombing, and by Abu Eain's immediate decision, on reading the note, "to go to America that day." It was also supported by otehr circumstantial evidence offered by the Israeli bombing squad captain. In addition, Judge Wood pointed to evidence frequently used by prosecutors in the United States -- the conduct of the suspect when he first arrested.
The opinion gives this description. After the bombing Abu Eain made his way, via Amman, to the home of his sister and brother-in-law, named Ahmad Yusuf, in Chicago. When FBI agents arrived at the house on August 17, 1979, with an arrest warrant for Ziad Abu Eain, he identified himself as "Kamal Yusuf." Several days later, the FBI discovered that the kmown fingerprints of Ziad Abu Eain matched those of "Kamal Yusuf." When they returned to arrest Abu Eain, he was gone. His brother-in-law, only he was threatened with prosecution for harboring a fugitive, lured him back to the house for arrest.
Naughtie reports that when four FBI agents, "with guns in their hands," came to the Yusufs' home, Abu Eain "was terrified and did not know whether to believe them, so he gave a false name." Naughtie goes on to say that, after being "questioned," Abu Eain was released, but was "summoned" again by the FBI four days later and "appeared in court." In fact, he was arrested while trying to hide and flee.
Nor is there a shred of evidence that the accomplice's confession was obtained after he had "spent weeks in custody without seeing an attorney." The accomplice himself has never made this assertion, and Abu Eain's lawyers said only that they had no information on the circumstances surrounding the confession and hypothesized it was "probably weeks afer Jamal's arrest during which period he had no known access to counsel [italics added]."
And what of the contention that the accomplice's confession was in Hebrew? Naughtie fails to mention a fact that the United States magistrate and Judge Wood both cited -- an Arabic-speaking Israeli magistrate certified "that he questioned [the accomplice and his cousin] in Arabic and determined that they understood their statements and made them of their own free will."
Naughtie is also inaccurate in describing the confession of Jamal Yasin, the accomplice. Yasin's account, according to The Post story, is that he and Abu Eain drove to Tiberias on May 14, 1979, set a time bomb, and then drove home. In fact, Yasin's confession recounted that the two of them had driven to Tiberias on May 11, when Abu Eain expressed a desire to "carry out attacks." According to the confession, Yasin responded that he could assist in an attack on May 14; on that date, Yasin prepared the bomb and brought it to Ramallah, where he instructed Abu Eain on how to set the time fuse. Abu Eain then told Yasin, according to the confession, that he preferred to go to Tiberias alone because Yasin might be recognized; he returned later that day and reported that he had placed the bomb, as instructed, in a trash basket, and that it was timed to go off at 2:30 p.m.
If Yasin's confession and its corroboration are truthful, the offense was hardly an impetuous act of political opposition; it was a calculated and preplanned conspiracy to murder and main, with full knowledge that there would be throngs of pilgrims in Tiberias on May 14 -- the Jewish holiday of Lag b'Omer.
Naughtie says that Abu Eain "has been denied the right to present evidence to a U.S. court that could clear him." In fact, the factual questions presented at a criminal trial are not the same as those in an extradition proceeding. Naughtie says that the magistrate "found 'probable cause' that Abu Eain had committed the crime" -- as though probable cause were not enough. But "probable cause," based on a prosecutor's presentation without consideration of contradictory evidence by the defendant, is all that has to be established for extradition.
The Post suggests there is an inconsistency in the treatment of the cases of Abu Eain and John Peter McMullen, an Irish Republican Army supporter who, according to Naughtie, "admitted responsibility for a fatal bombing" but was permitted to remain in the United States because of the "political offense" exception. Naughtie calls McMullen's act "fatal," a word not used in eight mentions of Abu Eain's alleged bombing. Naughtie does not tell that McMullen is accused of having bombed a "Brithish Army installation." It is established extradition law that an act of violence committed against military targets more readily qualifies as a "political offense" than an act against civilians.
Judge Wood said that "a random bombing intended to result in the cold-blooded murder of civilians" is not a "political offense" simply because it may be "incidental to a purpose of toppling a government." The judge observed that the law was not "so utterly absurd" as to make the United States a haven a for all "terrorists have committed barbarous acts elsewhere."
In short, an examination of the public record of Abu Eain's case demonstrates that his extradition is entirely justified , and that the only real injustified, and that the only real injustice in his case is that he has delayed his return to face trial in Israel for more than two years. It demonstrates, as well, that Naughtie and The Post have presented, in the guise of a news story, a plea for a Palestinian terrorist that exceeds even the bounds of what his hired lawyers are willing to say on his behalf.