Arab-Israeli killer in Michigan prison seeking deportation to Israel

An Arab-Israeli immigrant to the United States who is serving a life sentence for murder has sued the U.S. government in a bid to be deported to Israel.

Elias Abuelazam, 37, a Christian Arab from Ramla, filed a lawsuit earlier this month in a Michigan federal court saying he committed a murder in Israel in 2009, months before he came to Flint, Mich., and stabbed a man to death.

“I have written letters to the Israeli authorities asking them to prepare the necessary warrants and extradition documents to bring me back to Israel where I will stand trial and be sent to prison,” Abuelazam said in the lawsuit, The Associated Press reported.

Abuelazam, who lived in the United States for several years as a child, reportedly was living legally in the United States on a green card obtained when he married a U.S. citizen. He was accused of killing three people in three U.S. states during the summer of 2010, and was arrested on Aug. 1 of that year in Atlanta after boarding a flight to Israel. He claimed that demons told him to commit the attacks, but a jury rejected the insanity plea.

Abuelazam was not tried for the other two murders because he was given a life sentence without parole in the Michigan case.

Ed Zeineh, Abuelazam’s attorney, said his client could serve his sentence in Israel if Israel would take him.

“I don’t believe this is a mechanism to get out from a life sentence,” Zeineh told AP. “Abuelazam was and is mentally ill, and I believe the structure of the correctional system in Israel is able to better treat mental illness.”


French court orders extradition of alleged Brussels museum shooter

A French court ordered the extradition of Mehdi Nemmouche, the Frenchman suspected of killing four people at the Jewish museum in Brussels.

On Thursday, the court in Versailles approved Nemmouche’s extradition to Belgium to face murder charges, according to reports.

Nemmouche has been in police custody on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and possession of weapons since his arrest on May 30 in the southern French city of Marseille.

Nemmouche had refused extradition, then changed his mind on condition that he not be ordered sent to a third country, namely Israel, for trial. Two of the people murdered in the attack were Israeli.

French police said June 1 that they believed Nemmouche committed the May 24 murders at the Jewish Museum of Belgium and then traveled to Marseille on a bus. He was arrested at a routine customs inspection of the passengers on the bus, which left from Amsterdam via Brussels to France.

Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said earlier this month that a video found after Nemmouche’s arrest contains his voice claiming responsibility for the attack and murders. Nemmouche had tried to film the attack, according to Van Leeuw, but the camera failed.

Nemmouche, who lived in the French city of Roubaix on the border with Belgium, had spent several years in a French jail for armed robbery. French authorities believe he left for Syria via Belgium to fight with jihadists in 2012 before returning to Europe.

Suspected war criminal escapes extradition from Australia on legal technicality

Australia’s highest court has ruled not to extradite suspected war criminal Charles Zentai to his native Hungary.

Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff told JTA that Wednesday’s ruling not to extradite the alleged war criminal to Hungary is “a permanent stain on Australia’s record.”

An Australian government spokesperson said on Wednesday that Zentai, who is accused of murdering a Jew in Budapest in 1944, could not be extradited because back then “the offense of ‘war crime’ did not exist under Hungarian law,” The Australian reported.

Hungary first requested Zentai’s extradition in 2005 for the offense of war crimes. He is accused of fatally assaulting Peter Balazs, 18, in November 1944, for not wearing a yellow Star of David.

He and two fellow soldiers in the Hungarian army were accused of beating Balazs and then tossing his body into the Danube River. Zentai denies the charges.
The federal government approved Zentai’s extradition to Hungary in 2009 but the decision was overturned on appeal in the Federal Court in 2011. The government then sought the ruling of the justices of nation’s highest court, who reserved their decision in March before dismissing the appeal Wednesday.

Zuroff, the New York-born Nazi hunter who tracked Zentai down, said the ruling “means that the Australian effort to bring Holocaust-era war criminals to justice has not had a single success.”

Zuroff said the Australian justices had “ignored numerous international precedents” in which war criminals were extradited to stand trial for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity despite the fact that these criminal categories had not existed at the time of the crime.

The Australian court system has reviewed charges against three suspected Holocaust-era war criminals, none of whom were convicted. One, Konrads Kalejs, an alleged leader of Latvia’s notorious Arajs Kommando unit, accused of murdering thousands of Jews and gypsies in Riga in 1942-43, died in Australia in 2001 while awaiting a court decision of whether he should be extradited to his native Latvia.

The ruling shows that “Australia was the right destination for the numerous Nazi war criminals and collaborators, none of whom was ever successfully prosecuted or extradited, despite their heinous crimes,” said Zuroff, who heads the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office. “In that respect, Australia has the worst record among the major Anglo-Saxon democracies, all of whom allowed the entry of numerous Nazi helpers after World War II.”

Zentai is believed to be Australia’s last Nazi-era war crimes suspect.

Polish court upholds Mossad agent’s extradition

A Polish appeals court has upheld a decision to extradite an alleged Israeli Mossad agent suspected of involvement in the assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai.

The court on Thursday upheld a Warsaw regional court judge’s decision in July to turn Uri Brodsky over to Germany, where he could face trial for falsification of documents and using false documents. He will be sent to Germany in 10 days.

Brodsky, who was arrested at the Warsaw Airport in early June, is suspected of having helped another Mossad agent, reportedly named Michael Bodenheimer, to illegally obtain a German passport as part of the plot to kill senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room in January. According to the German federal prosecutor’s office, Bodenheimer received German citizenship based on fabricated evidence that his parents had fled Nazi Germany.

Mabhouh co-founded the military wing of the Islamist Hamas movement and allegedly was in Dubai to conclude a weapons deal when he was killed. Dubai police investigations reportedly pointed to the involvement of 33 people in the plot. They were placed on Interpol’s most wanted list, and Germany particularly sought Brodsky, according to reports.

The team allegedly used fake passports from England, Ireland, France, Australia and Germany. All five countries demanded explanations from Israeli diplomats in the case; the use of fake passports and stolen identities appeared to be of primary concern. Israel reportedly has not responded to the requests for explanations and has not said whether it was involved in the assassination of Mabhouh.

Briefs: Rice says Abbas can do, Peres talks Turkey, Olmert suspected

Rice: Abbas a True Peace Partner

Condoleezza Rice told thousands of Jewish communal activists that the president of the Palestinian Authority is a true partner for peace. The U.S. secretary of state, addressing delegates in Nashville at the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities, also said progress toward a Palestinian state was vital to beating back an Iranian-led surge in extremism.

“What is at stake is nothing less than the future of the Middle East,” Rice said Tuesday.

“Violent extremists, with the government of Iran increasingly in the lead, are doing everything in their power to impose their fear, their resentments and their hate-filled ideologies on the people of the Middle East,” she said, adding that “this makes the two-state solution even more urgent than ever.”

Rice said she fears that if “Palestinians reformers” fail to deliver on the Palestinian people’s hope for a state, then “the moderate center could collapse and the next generation of Palestinians will become lost souls of unbridled extremism.”

“It is not a time for half measures,” she said.

Rice was cheered multiple times when discussing the need to defend Israel, fight anti-Semitism and confront Hamas and Iran. But the crowd was silent as she described the P.A. president, Mahmoud Abbas, as a true partner for peace and said now there was “responsible leadership” with which Israel could deal.

In an exclusive interview with JTA prior to the speech, Rice praised several steps taken by Abbas and his loyalists in the West Bank to fight terrorism.

Asked about fears that failure at an upcoming peace meeting in Annapolis could spark a new wave of violence, the secretary of state said that “no one can afford failure here” and “not acting is failure in these circumstances.”

“When you have a Palestinian partner who is dedicated against violence and against terrorism, and who’s struggling against an alternative view for the Palestinians,” Rice said, “not acting I think has a much more significant risk than acting.”

Police Conduct Raids in Olmert Probes

Israeli police raided government offices as part of three probes against Ehud Olmert.

Investigators from the National Fraud Unit searched the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Jerusalem municipality, Israel Lands Administration, Postal Authority and several other premises Sunday for potential evidence against the prime minister.

Olmert is under criminal investigation for his allegedly discounted purchase of a Jerusalem home shortly after he stepped down as the city’s mayor. He is further accused of cronyism and bid-rigging during his term as industry and trade minister in the government of Ariel Sharon.

Olmert has denied any wrongdoing.

Accountant General Yaron Zelekha, who made a name for himself as Israel’s anti-corruption watchdog by calling for the prime minister to be investigated, announced over the weekend he would be stepping down.

Zelekha said he was resigning as his job was done, but Israeli pundits noted that his tenure at the finance ministry had not been renewed.

Peres Addresses Turkish Parliament

Shimon Peres made history as the first Israeli president to address the Turkish parliament.

In his speech Tuesday attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, Peres expressed gratitude to Turkey for opening its doors to the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492. He also voiced optimism about the outcome of the upcoming Annapolis peace summit, and said peace was possible with the Palestinians and other neighboring Arab countries.

“I came here to listen, not only to be heard, to exchange views in order to advance the efforts to reach a peace deal between us and the Palestinians, and to assess the chances of peace in the entire region, from Syria to Yemen,” Peres said.

Abbas also addressed the parliament, thanking Turkey for supporting the Palestinians’ efforts to gain their own state.

Israel to Extradite Alleged Pedophile

Stefan Colmer will become the first American extradited from Israel on sex abuse charges. Colmer, who was indicted on charges he abused two ultra-Orthodox boys in Brooklyn, will be sent back to the United States following a Jerusalem court ruling Sunday, the New York Daily News reported.

Colmer, 30, was arrested in June after he fled to Israel to avoid arrest. Israel and the United States had agreed only to extradite suspected sex criminals if they had been charged with rape, but the agreement was revised in January.

Colmer was indicted in Brooklyn on eight counts of sexual abuse. He allegedly performed oral sex on the two boys over a period of several months last year.

Educators Honored With Covenant Awards

The Covenant Foundation presented its annual awards for innovative Jewish educators Sunday at a gala dinner at the United Jewish Communities’ General Assembly in Nashville. The awards include a $25,000 prize for each educator as well as a $5,000 prize for the recipient’s home institution.

The foundation cited Tobie Brandriss, a biology teacher and science curriculum coordinator at SAR High School in New York; Bruce Powell, the founding head of school at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills; and Rabbi Philip Warmflash, the executive director of Jewish Outreach Partnership in Philadelphia. They were chosen from a pool of 148 nominees.

Brandriss, who designed a science curriculum that explores the potential tension between Judaism and science, was the first science teacher to receive the award, created in 1991 to honor forward-thinking Jewish educators. Powell founded three Jewish day schools in the Los Angeles area. Warmflash designs programs to help synagogues welcome unaffiliated families.

Jewish Rookie Makes Baseball History

Ryan Braun became baseball’s first Jewish Rookie of the Year.

Braun, the slugging third baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, picked up the award Monday in the National League. In the voting by the Baseball Writers of America, Braun edged Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, 128-126.

Called up from the minor leagues in May, Braun batted .324 with 34 home runs and 97 runs batted in while leading the league with a slugging percentage of .634.

World Briefs

Hijack Suspect’s Extradition Sought

Israeli officials are planning to seek the extradition from Turkey of an Israeli Arab who tried to hijack an El Al flight Sunday. According to Israel Radio, attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said Wednesday the extradition request is being drawn up for Tawfik Fukara, who allegedly wanted to crash the plane into a Tel Aviv high-rise. Security officials aboard the Tel Aviv-Ankara flight tackled him when he rushed the cockpit and turned him over to Turkish authorities when the flight safely landed. Turkish television reported that Fukara told authorities he wanted to “make the voice of the Palestinian people heard.” Israeli authorities have said Fukara was inspired by the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Poll: Palestinians Divided OverConflict

Palestinians are divided over whether the conflict with Israel is helping achieve their goals, according to a new poll. Conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, the poll showed 39 percent believe the conflict was helping achieve a Palestinian state. Another 36 percent believe it is not helping and 25 percent have no opinion. The poll of more than 1,000 Palestinians has a margin of error of 3 percent.

Second-Century Artifacts Found

Papyrus scrolls dating to the second-century Jewish rebellion against the Romans were discovered in a Judean desert cave. Researchers from the Hebrew University, Bar Ilan University and Stanford University discovered the scrolls after rappelling into the cave in the Ein Gedi reserve. They also found crude arrowheads and coins bearing the Hebrew name “Shimon,” a reference to the leader of the rebellion against the Roman army, Shimon Bar Kochba. A Hebrew University researcher said the items probably belonged to Jews from the Ein Gedi region who hid in the remote cave to escape the Roman army.

Museum of Tolerance Planned forJerusalem

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is slated to unveil plans for a new $150 million tolerance center in Jerusalem. Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s founder and dean, will be joined Sunday in Jerusalem by architect Frank Gehry, where they will discuss the goals and design of the Center for Human Dignity-Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem. As part of Sunday’s events, the architect’s models for the center will be unveiled at the president’s residence.

UJC Debates Birthright Funding

The umbrella group of North American federations is considering a resolution to pay $39 million to Birthright Israel. At the General Assembly in Philadelphia, the United Jewish Communities’ (UJC) board of trustees debated a resolution Wednesday to pay a share of the program to send 18-26 year olds who have never been to Israel on an organized trip. Currently, 20 percent of federations have not paid for the program, according to Stephen Hoffman, UJC president. The proposed resolution would require all federations to increase their donations to Birthright by 33 percent over last year. The resolution will be voted on within 30 days, Hoffman said. The Jewish Agency for Israel would share in the cost. Meanwhile, UJC voted Wednesday to administer a tax-exempt bond pool for member federations.

New Jersey Rabbi Convicted in MurderTrial

A New Jersey rabbi was convicted for arranging the murder of his wife. Rabbi Fred Neulander could receive the death penalty for hiring two hit men to kill his wife, Carol, in 1994. Wednesday’s verdict came nearly a year after the first trial ended in a hung jury.

Senate Passes Terrorism Insurance Bill

The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would shift most of the insurance costs of terrorist attacks onto the federal government. The bill is expected to result in lower insurance premiums for property and casualty insurance. It is a boon for Jewish federations and other groups that have faced skyrocketing premiums since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The bill, which passed the Senate 86-11 on Tuesday after passing the House last week, provides insurance companies with up to $100 billion in government protection against losses from terrorist attacks. President Bush is expected to sign the legislation next week.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency