Israel might return Md. teen Montgomery Co. youth fled to avoid trial in U.S. on murder charge

Ruled eligible for extradition

Fugitive Sheinbein is not an Israeli citizen, attorney general finds

October 20, 1997|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM -- A Maryland teen-ager who fled to Israel to avoid trial on murder charges in the United States can be returned to America because he is not an Israeli citizen, Israel's top lawyer determined yesterday.

Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein notified a Jerusalem court that Samuel D. Sheinbein, 17, of Montgomery County was eligible for extradition and asked that the teen-ager's arrest order reflect that, a spokeswoman said. Prosecutors will explain the basis of the decision at a court hearing today, the spokeswoman said.

Sheinbein, whose father was born here, fled to Israel on Sept. 22, after being accused in the slaying of Alfredo Enrique Tello Jr., 19, in a vacant house in the suspect's Montgomery County neighborhood. The victim's body was dismembered and burned.

Sheinbein has been held in an Israeli jail since last month, when U.S. officials notified Israel that Sheinbein was wanted for murder in the Sept. 19 slaying.

The teen-ager's return is not expected immediately. The case could be appealed to Israel's high court.

If Sheinbein is not extradited, he will be tried in Israel. If convicted, he could receive a life sentence, but would likely serve less of his prison term than if imprisoned in the United States, Israeli officials said.

The Sheinbein case had gone beyond a police matter to a foreign policy issue. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright formally requested Sheinbein's return in a message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and members of Congress threatened to withhold millions of dollars in aid to Israel if extradition was not ordered.

Officials of the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith said they feared increased anti-Semitism if Israel refused extradition.

Sheinbein sought refuge in Israel under a 1978 law that bars extradition of Israeli citizens charged with crimes abroad. Although born in the United States, Sheinbein is claiming Israeli citizenship through his father, who was born in Palestine in 1944, before the founding of Israel.

'Detailed examination'

Israel made the decision on Sheinbein's extradition after a "a very detailed examination" of the citizenship issue, a statement said. The examination included the review of more than 300 pages of documents on the emigration of the teen-ager's father, Shlomo Sheinbein, from Israel to the United States in 1950.

The elder Sheinbein emigrated with his parents when he was 6 years old. But the father maintains that he is an Israeli citizen -- he holds a valid Israeli passport -- and, accordingly under Israeli law, his son also is an Israeli citizen.

David Libai, a former Israeli justice minister and the teen-ager's Israeli lawyer, said Israel has been under pressure from the United States to find a way to extradite Sheinbein. He said yesterday's decision means that Israeli officials have determined that Shlomo Sheinbein is not an Israeli citizen.

"It means retroactively withdrawing the father's citizenship, and the father is a respected man who did nothing wrong," Libai said. "You must not allow the ends to justify the means."

Libai said the elder Sheinbein, a patent attorney, has always been treated as an Israeli citizen. For example, Libai said, Shlomo Sheinbein has traveled to Israel almost yearly. He enters the country on his Israeli passport and carries a military deferment from the Israeli army, the lawyer said.

Libai said the elder Sheinbein returned to Israel in 1955 when he was 11 years old. He and his parents lived in Israel for a year "as Israeli citizens, not as new immigrants, not as tourists, not through any visas," Libai said.

Shlomo Sheinbein's mother, Devora Sheinbein, has lived in Israel since 1971; her husband, Abba, was murdered in Tel Aviv when they lived there in 1982, officials said. Samuel Sheinbein, the Maryland teen-ager, has visited Israel four times previously.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening welcomed the decision on extradition.

"It is appropriate that he's returned to Montgomery County and stand trial where he was accused," Judi Scioli said.

Sheinbein arrived in Israel in late September on a flight from New York with his parents' knowledge, according to those familiar with the case. But once the elder Sheinbein learned that Montgomery County police had issued an arrest warrant for his son, the father cooperated with police.

In the Sheinbein's garage, police found a box for an electric saw, garbage bags similar to one the victim was found in, rubber gloves and blood stains, according to a Justice Ministry statement.

The father arranged to have his son returned to Maryland. He sent an elder son, Robert, to Israel to bring Sheinbein home, but Samuel refused and took an overdose of pills. He was taken to a hospital, then transferred to a psychiatric institute outside Tel Aviv.

Notified that the teen-ager was wanted in a murder case, Israeli police have detained him since Sept. 28.

Netanyahu comments

Netanyahu told Israel Radio last night that it was always Israel's intention to extradite Sheinbein if it was legally permissible. "If it is legally possible to extradite the wanted person to the United States, we shall do so. I hope it will be implemented."

Paul T. Stein, a Rockville lawyer representing the Sheinbein family, said if the teen-ager is returned to the United States, the case might have to be moved from Maryland because of adverse publicity. Sheinbein is charged as an adult in the slaying along with Aaron B. Needle, 18, of Montgomery County.

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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