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Giovanni Giacalone
Eyes everywhere

No extradition for al-Aqsa terrorist active in Italy, a very shady case

A fliyer during a demonstration in favor of Yaeesh Anan that calls for boycott of Italy-Israel collaboration

Yaeesh Anan, the leader of the al-Aqsa “Tulkarem Brigade” cell that was planning terrorist attacks in Israel from Italian territory will not be extradited to Israel. The judges of the Italian Appeal Court of L’Aquila refused Israel’s request for extradition.

Anan had been arrested in late January 2024 by the Italian police under Israeli request but, in the meantime, he was also under investigation in Italy. Two other Palestinians, Irar Ali Saji Ribhi and Doghmosh Mansour, were also arrested last weekend.

The verdict of the Italian judges raises many doubts. To refuse extradition, it would have been sufficient to say that the prisoner was still under investigation for possible terror-related crimes in Italy, as it seems to be, but instead the judges turned the matter into a political case, obviously against Israel, saying that “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 Italian prisons were some sort of 5-star hotels. As if Italian prisons were not overcrowded. As if Italian prisons did not have a major issue with frequent suicides and violence.

Interestingly, Anan also received the support of Italian left-wing politicians such as Laura Boldrini, Nicola Fratoianni and Stefania Ascari, the same ones who backed Mohammad Hannoun, the president of the Association of Palestinians in Italy and ABSPP who had his bank accounts frozen by various banks, who defined the October 7th massacre as “self-defense” and who glorified Hamas bombmaker Yahya Ayyash just two months ago.

Going back to Anan, the legal papers of the investigation expose how he was the leader of the “Rapid Response-Tulkarem Unit” of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, and he was directly in touch with Al-Aqsa chief commander Mounir al-Maqdah.

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 by the Fatah secret services, where he served from 2002 to 2005, for terror-related issues. 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.

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

The 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.

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

However, all this is just the tip of the iceberg of a case that has many dark spots. Firstly, how is it possible that Anan found a safe haven in Italy when Norway and Sweden refused to host him? And the way he reached Italy is even stranger, but let’s reconstruct his movements:

In September 2013, three years after being released from prison, Anan obtained a Schengen visa from the Norwegian consulate in Ramallah and flew to Norway where he stayed for a few years before the authorities in Oslo revoked his visa following an extradition request by the Israeli authorities (arrested Palestinians had indicated him as a militia trainer and linked to weapons trafficking).

The Norwegian authorities refused him international protection and he also lost the appeal case. He then moved to Sweden for three months in an attempt to obtain it there, but once again it was refused.

On October 8th, 2017, he reached Rome by train, directly from Norway and through Switzerland. 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.

In Rome, he meets some Arabs in a restaurant near the Vatican who suggest that he should go to L’Aquila where “it would be easier to obtain a residence permit for international protection”. (How did they know that? Why is L’Aquila such a “hospitable” city)?

On October 31, 2017, Anan has an interview with the Italian DIGOS police in L’Aquila and he tells 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.

It is worth recalling that the Al-Aqsa Brigades are classified as a terrorist organization by the EU, the US, and Canada.

Strangely enough, the Italian authorities let him stay, unlike their Swedish and Norwegian counterparts. In 2018 Anan proceeds with the request for international protection and in 2019 he obtains a special protection permit.

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

In November 2023, Anan is 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 is arrested due to Israeli request.

What would have happened if Israel had not requested his arrest and extradition? How is it possible that Anan was able to obtain such permits, operate in Italy and open eight bank accounts with money flowing despite being unemployed? No red flag was raised by anyone?

The Italian authorities were clearly aware of his presence, of his al-Aqsa militancy, so why was he free to do all this? Was Anan present in the SIS system? (Shengen’s informative security system). Because if he was, that would be an additional element to ponder on.

In the legal papers it is also stated that “after the October 7th facts in Israel, the DIGOS police intensified its monitoring activity to spot individuals of concern for national security and detected Anan Yaeesh as potential author of projects of a terrorist nature potentially capable of also targeting interests and sites on national territory”.

However, the red flag should have been raised way before, since Anan entered Italy back in 2017 and the Italian authorities were well aware of his presence.

If Israel had not requested his extradition, would he still have been able to move around freely? Did it have to occur a massacre such as the October 7th to get the Italians to “intensify the monitoring” and detect an al-Aqsa terror cell leader on their soil? An al-Aqsa cell leader with eight bank accounts and free to travel all the way to Malaysia, the UAE, to Germany, Malta, Jordan.

And now, the L’Aquila Appeal Court judges do not want to turn him over to Israel, despite all the evidence and the fact that he was planning attacks on Israeli soil, because Israeli prisons are “not safe”.

It is legitimate to ask ourselves if this case goes beyond the judicial and ideological issues. It is indeed very strange.

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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