WASHINGTON – The families of three Special Forces troops slain by a Jordanian soldier at a military base in Jordan in 2016 are calling on Congress to suspend aid to the key U.S. Mideast partner until it extradites the killer.
The families are also joining an effort to press Jordan to extradite a woman convicted in Israel of a 2001 bombing that killed 15 people, including two Americans. In letters sent to lawmakers this week, the families say assistance to Jordan should be cut until Jordan addresses the cases.
The soldier, Marek al-Tuwayha, has already been convicted in Jordan and is serving life in prison for the murders, but the families say the sentence is inadequate because he will likely be released after 20 years. The woman convicted of the deadly attack on a pizzeria in Israel, Ahlam Aref Ahmad al-Tamimi, has lived freely in Jordan since she was released in a 2011 prisoner swap.
In their appeals to lawmakers, the families of the U.S. soldiers, Matthew Lewellen, of Missouri, Kevin McEnroe, of Arizona, and James Moriarty, of Texas, said Congress should withhold or reduce foreign aid to Jordan unless both cases are resolved.
The king of Jordan “should publicly apologize for the murders of their sons and explain why his country harbors a terrorist that killed Americans in the pizzeria bombing,” they said in a statement.
Jordan has rebuffed previous efforts to extradite al-Tamimi, citing double jeopardy considerations, but the Trump administration said recently it would consider withholding assistance as leverage to get Jordan to act on the matter and Jordan’s King Abdullah II has been told of the possibility, according to congressional aides.
“We support (al-Tamimi´s) extradition, along with a U.S. prosecution of the murderer of our sons,” said Moriarty´s father, James. “We also hope all of the families of Americans killed by Jordanians finally get some measure of justice. King Abdullah should remember this: We will not stop until we do.”
Al-Tuwayha is still in prison, and there are no known plans to release him. He has never apologized for the shooting at the King Faisal Air Base in November 2016, and his lawyer said there are no updates on the case. The lawyer, Subhi al-Mawwas, repeated al-Tuwayha´s claim in court that he opened fire because he thought the base was being attacked.
The U.S. has long been a major provider of aid to Jordan and, in early 2018, the administration signed a five-year, $6.4 billion aid agreement with the country that increased the annual amount of aid by $275 million to $1.3 billion.
Al-Tamimi is wanted by the U.S. on a charge of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against American nationals. The charge was filed under seal in 2013 and announced by the Justice Department four years later.
She was arrested by Israel weeks after the bombing and sentenced to 16 life terms but released in the 2011 Israel-Hamas prisoner swap and moved to Jordan. She has made frequent media appearances, expressing no remorse for the attack and saying she was pleased with the high death toll.
Among the victims of the attack was Malka Roth, a 15-year-old Israeli American girl, whose father, Arnold Roth, has led a campaign seeking al-Tamimi´s extradition.
Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, contributed.