Giovanni Giacalone
Eyes everywhere

Italy refused to extradite Palestinian terrorist, but what is the real reason?

A flyer in support of Anan during a far left demonstration in Italy. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law.

In March of 2024, the judges of the Italian Appeal Court of L’Aquila refused Israel’s request for the extradition of Yaesh Anan, the leader of the al-Aqsa “Tulkarem Brigade” cell who was planning terrorist attacks in Israel from Italian territory. Anan had been arrested in late January 2024 by the Italian police under Israeli request while he was also under investigation in Italy. Two other Palestinians, Irar Ali Saji Ribhi and Doghmosh Mansour, were also arrested with him.

(Read the Times of Israel full story on the arrest of Yaesh Anan here)

According to the Appeal Court judges: “Anan could be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or in any case to acts which constitute a violation of human rights”, additionally indicating that “Israeli prisons are characterized by overcrowding, physical violence, poor hygiene conditions and lack of healthcare further worsened by the ongoing conflict”.

As if Israel was a “banana republic”. As if Italy did not have major issues with deteriorating conditions in its prisons.

As reported on June 17th by the Italian news site “Il Domani”: “In 24 hours, four inmates took their own lives in their cells. With the deaths of Sassari, Ariano Irpino, Biella and Teramo, the number of suicides since the beginning of the year has reached 44, and 2024 is projected to be the year with the worst figure, if we consider that the previous record of 2022 is 84 total suicides”.

Not exactly a four-star hotel situation, right?

Anan had spent years in prison in Israel for a series of attacks against Israeli targets, for taking part in the Second Intifada and he was even expelled (for terror-related issues) by the Fatah secret services, where he served from 2002 to 2005. In September of 2005, he was also arrested by the Palestinian police and locked up in Jericho’s prison from where he escaped six months later.

Anan was the leader of the “Rapid Response-Tulkarem Unit” of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, and he was directly in touch from Italian soil with Al-Aqsa chief commander Mounir al-Maqdah with whom he frequently talked on video call using the Whatsapp application. The terror cell was also in touch with members of the same Tulkarem unit who were killed on November 6th, 2023 in an exchange of fire with the IDF in Tulkarem.

In addition, despite their status of “unemployment”, Anan and his colleague Irar Ali Saji Ribhi, managed to open 17 bank accounts (respectively, 8 and 9). In one of these accounts, opened at the Italian Mail service (Poste Pay) there were more than 95,000 Euros.

The investigation papers also indicate that Anan and his cell were collecting funds and planning a series of attacks against Israeli politicians, the former war cabinet, and an armed assault similar to the one that occurred in southern Israel on October 7th 2023, this time against the Israeli settlement in Avnei Hefetz. They planned to use video cameras installed on rifles and hats to film everything for propaganda goals.

On October 8th, 2017, Anan reached Rome by train, directly from Norway (where he had been refused international protection). He was without any type of ID and only had a photo showing his passport and a copy of International Red Cross documents as all the documents had been withheld by the Norwegian authorities.

On October 31, 2017, Anan was questioned by the Italian DIGOS police in L’Aquila and he told them everything, including his career as an al-Aqsa member, his arrests by Palestinian and Israeli police, his escape from Jericho’s prison, the firefight with the IDF in 2006.

In September 2022, the Court of Bari rejected the request for international protection made by Anan precisely for reasons of national security and public order. However, Anan remained in Italy and he even managed to travel abroad to Malaysia, the UAE, Malta, Germany, and Jordan (in May 2023, where he was also arrested and released shortly after under unclear circumstances).

In November 2023, Anan was back in Italy. His permit of stay expired on November 11th, 2023 but, according to the investigators, no request for renewal was made. Anan even managed to rent an apartment, once again in L’Aquila, on January 7th, 20204. At the end of that same month, he was arrested due to a formal request by Israeli authorities.

It is quite astonishing why Anan was able to freely operate from Italian soil, planning attacks, and communicating with Lebanon-based al-Aqsa terror leader Mounir al-Maqdah, considering that his background was well known to local authorities.

In theory, Anan was “under investigation” by the Italian authorities but, nevertheless, he presented a clear danger to Israeli security.

What would have happened if Israel had not requested his arrest and extradition? Why did the Italian Appeal Court refuse to extradite him to Israel? Is it really for “humanitarian reasons”?

About the Author
Giovanni Giacalone is a senior analyst in Islamist extremism and terrorism at the Italian Team for Security, Terroristic Issues and Managing Emergencies-Catholic University of Milan, at the Europe desk for the UK-based think tank Islamic Theology of Counter-Terrorism, and a researcher for Centro Studi Machiavelli. Since 2021 he is the coordinator for the "Latin America group" at the International Institute for the Study of Security-ITSS. In 2023 Giacalone published the book “The Tablighi Jamaat in Europe”.
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