by Dan Izenberg (Jerusalem Post)
January 15, 2010
The Supreme Court accepted an appeal by Yitzhak Mondrovich against his extradition on Thursday, 25 years after he arrived in Israel and 24 years after US authorities indicted him on suspicion of committing 13 sexual crimes against five boys aged nine to 13.
"The legal and moral basis of the extradition procedure according to the Israeli extradition law is not restricted to being an important tool in the war against international and domestic crime," Justice Ayala Procaccia wrote."
"It is also, at the same time, a procedure which takes human rights into consideration, both by the country requesting the extradition and the extraditing country. The fear of undermining an extradition procedure like this one cannot surmount the need to look at its implications for human rights and the fundamental values of the system of the country being asked to extradite."
Procaccia wrote that Mondrovich's right to a proper judicial procedure would be harmed if the extradition was carried out, because of the lengthy period of time that had elapsed. The statute of limitations in Israel for the crimes of which Mondrovich was accused was 10 years, she wrote.
Justices Elyakim Rubinstein and Miriam Naor agreed with Procaccia, making the decision unanimous. The court rejected a lower court ruling handed down on February 10, 2008, upholding the state's request to extradite the suspect.
Mondrovich apparently fled to Israel ahead of an investigation by New York police on November 12, 1984. Less than a month later, the Israel Police began their investigation, and it issued an arrest warrant on December 3, 1984.
He was indicted on February 14, 1985, on five counts of sodomy in the first degree, eight counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, and one count of endangering a minor. In March, the US authorities asked Israel to arrest Mondrovich pending the submission of an extradition request.
But it took 23 years for the extradition request to arrive.
In May 1985, Israel informed the US that according to the extradition agreement between the countries, sexual crimes did not constitute extraditable offenses.
For the next 22 years there were various attempts to make Mondrovich's extradition possible. For example, Israeli law was changed in 1998 so that sodomy was given the same legal status as rape, which was an extraditable offense. In 2001, the Extradition Law itself was changed so that any offense carrying a punishment of at least one year in prison became an extraditable offense.
However, it was only in 2007 that the extradition agreement between Israel and the US was finally changed, clearing the way to extradite Mondrovich based on the charges included in the original indictment.
The state argued that the statute of limitations, whose clock began ticking when Mondrovich was indicted, had been interrupted during the next 20 years by the various attempt to make him extraditable. Therefore, 10 years had not yet elapsed.
The district court agreed with the state's position and ordered Mondrovich to be sent back to the US. The Supreme Court overturned that decision on Thursday, removing once and for all the threat of extradition and trial in the US hanging over Mondrovich.