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Jailed Hamas leader says U.S. may send him to an Arab nation, not Israel

Marzook

March 28, 1997
Web posted at: 11:20 p.m. EST (0420 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook says the U.S. government is trying to resolve a diplomatic problem by relocating him from a U.S. prison to a country in the Middle East.

The self-described political leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas told CNN in an exclusive interview Friday that the FBI continues to talk with Egypt, Jordan and his own lawyers to resolve the problem.

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  • Marzook has been in a New York federal prison for two years, awaiting extradition to Israel on charges that he supported Hamas terrorists.

    The group Hamas has been recognized for operating schools, hospitals and openly sponsoring violent attacks in Israel, including last week's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed three people and injured more than 40.

    Israel has not publicly stated that it still wants Marzook returned since he stopped fighting extradition two months ago. Analysts say Israel now fears that trying him might prompt violent retaliation by Hamas. Yet the United States and Israel appear reluctant to simply release an accused terrorist.

    Marzook said the United States wants restrictions placed on his activities, movement and ability to speak publicly -- restrictions that he likened to "house arrest." But those countries so far have refused such conditions, he said.

    Marzook profile

    "The FBI went to Jordan, asking the Jordanians to accept me there, and the Jordanians said OK, yes, we'll accept him in Jordan. And they (the U.S.) said there are some conditions. The Jordanians said no, we are not accepting any conditions to welcome him in Jordan," Marzook told CNN. The U.S. then "asked if I'm welcome in Egypt, and the same thing: the Egyptian government said we can't accept him with any conditions."

    "They're trying to save their faces right now," Marzook said during the interview in the federal Metropolitan Corrections Center in New York City. He said he would refuse to accept any restrictions on his freedom, because he has not been formally charged with any crimes.

    The U.S. and Israeli governments have repeatedly declined to discuss Marzook or his claims. The U.S. attorney's office in New York would only say that the United States is obligated to release or extradite Marzook by April 6, two months after the court acted on his waiver of the extradition appeal.

    Hamas

    But Marzook and his lawyers insist that the government is obligated to release him Friday, two months after Marzook filed the waiver. On Monday, they plan to file a motion seeking to force the government to release him immediately.

    During the interview, Marzook said he opposed all violence. But he said he cannot condemn the Hamas attacks while Palestinians are still being "killed in the streets," imprisoned, forcibly relocated from their homes, with their land occupied by Israeli soldiers and settlers.

    "I condemned any killing (of) civilians many times... I said both sides should stop killing civilians," said Marzook, a 45-year-old father of six. He has a doctorate in engineering from Louisiana's Columbia State University.

    But "when you see the desperate Palestinian everywhere, without any solution, you can't expect anything," he said. "They're trying in the peaceful solution to solve their problems. But they're getting worse: their land taken from them ... all of them now in the big prisons, reservation area. There is no hope for the Palestinian. If you don't solve those problems among the Palestinians, it's very difficult to see the Palestinian come without any violence, without any struggle."

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