Jordanian authorities expelled a convicted Palestinian terrorist to Qatar earlier this month, sparking backlash in the kingdom in support of Nizar Tamimi and his wife.
Tamimi’s wife, Ahlam, who is wanted by the United States for her central role in a 2001 bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15 Israelis, remains in Jordan.
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Commission announced Nizar Tamimi’s expulsion on October 1, saying that Jordanian authorities had refused to renew his residency and that he had left the Hashemite kingdom for the Gulf state of Qatar.
“Security authorities asked me to leave Jordan immediately, and [said] their decision is final and irrevocable under any circumstances,” Nizar Tamimi announced in a statement.
“We were surprised by their position. It wasn’t expected at all,” his brother Mahmoud al-Tamimi told al-Quds News Network.
Tamimi was convicted of terrorism by an Israeli military court in 1993 after murdering Chaim Mizrahi, a student from the West Bank settlement of Beit El. Mizrahi was ambushed as he went to buy eggs, as he did each week, from a Palestinian farmer in Ramallah. Nizar and a relative, Said Tamimi, stabbed Mizrahi to death, stuffed his body into the trunk of his car, and set the vehicle alight.
No public reason has been given for Nizar Tamimi’s sudden deportation. Advocates for terror victims’ rights have long sought his wife Ahlam’s extradition to the United States for her role in the murder of two US civilians in one of the most infamous suicide attacks of the Second Intifada: the attack on the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem on Thursday, August 9, 2001.
Fifteen Israeli civilians — including seven children and a pregnant woman — were murdered in the Sbarro attack. Another 130 people were injured; one of them, Chana Nachenberg, remains hospitalized in a vegetative state.
Tamimi was convicted by an Israeli military court and sentenced to 16 life terms for orchestrating the bombing, with a judges’ order that she never be released. She met Nizar behind bars, where they were engaged. Both Tamimis were freed, along with over 1,000 other detainees, in the October, 2011 prisoner exchange deal between Israel and terror group Hamas that saw Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit freed from captivity.
Ahlam Tamimi, a Jordanian national, was deported by Israel to Jordan on her release, received a hero’s welcome at Queen Alia International Airport upon her arrival, and subsequently became a popular television broadcaster and public speaker, boasting of her role in the Sbarro attack. Nizar was allowed by Israel to cross into Jordan to join her in the summer of 2012, and they were married three months later at a wedding carried live on television.
Nizar Tamimi does not hold Jordanian citizenship.
Arnold Roth, whose 15-year-old daughter Malki was murdered in the Sbarro explosion, has for years lobbied the American government to pressure Jordan to extradite Ahlam in accordance with a US-Jordan bilateral agreement. (Malki was one of the victims who had dual Israeli-American citizenship.) In 2017, Ahlam was indicted in US federal court and a $5 million bounty was put on her head by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Jordan’s Supreme Court ruled, however, that Jordan’s extradition treaty with the United States did not allow Tamimi to be extradited.
‘My family has been shattered’
In an appearance on Jordan’s Melody FM radio station on October 6 in the aftermath of her husband’s expulsion, Tamimi said that she wanted to send a plea to Jordanian King Abdullah II to cancel her husband’s deportation.
“My family has been shattered and I have been separated from my husband [without] a convincing reason, without anyone clarifying why this happened,” Tamimi said.
In a live video stream within the radio station, the producers, Jihad Abu Baydar and Muadh al-Umari, began signaling with their hands to a sound technician to stop the call.
“…for my family to be broken,” Tamimi began to say, as her voice grew distorted.
— AJ+ عربي (@ajplusarabi) October 7, 2020
“Sister Ahlam? Sister Ahlam? Your voice is cutting out,” al-Umari said.
The Jordanian official press, most of which is controlled by the state, was quiet on the incident. But the radio jockeys’ actions provoked outrage on Jordanian social media. In response to al-Umari’s statement that Tamimi’s voice was “cutting out,” many Jordanians responded by retweeting the hashtag “your voice is loud and clear, Ahlam Tamimi.”
“[Ahlam Tamimi] is one of our people’s heroes, and the Jordanian people will defend her,” Jordanian actor Jamil Awad told Hamas-linked al-Resalah.
Abu Baydar and al-Umari both resigned in response to the controversy.
Responding to the wave of support on social media, Tamimi posted a video in which she expressed her “gratitude for all those standing in solidarity with me and with my husband Nizar in our just cause, which is one of family reunification.”
Nizar, who is now in Qatar, has yet to announce whether or not he will remain in the Emirate. Qatar has played host to several radical Islamist groups in the past; former Hamas terror chief Khaled Mashal has resided in Doha since 2012.