The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State
[Received 2:40 p.m.]
252. The killing of the Egyptian by an American soldier (Frank V. Meider) referred to in my 238, February 2, 1 p.m., makes it imperative that an agreement be reached on the question of jurisdiction at the earliest possible date. The killing at Port Said (mentioned in my 81, January 15, noon) did not precipitate the question because the crime did not occur in the Capital and because there were mitigating circumstances in favor of the soldier. Killing on January 31 occurred Cairo; from the information made available to me it is a case of murder with no mitigating circumstances except drunkenness; and it has come to the attention of the Prime Minister. He first insisted that the soldier be turned over to the Mixed Court and it was only after conferences with him, the Minister of Justice, the Under Secretary of State, and various advisers and by dint of much persuasion that he finally agreed that the soldier might be kept in custody, ostensibly ill, in American military hospital under military and police guard pending a prompt conclusion of the agreement regarding jurisdiction provided that I inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which I did by letter dated January [February] 2 that the soldier was ill and under guard as indicated above and that the American military authorities will place him at the disposal of the Mixed Courts when the state of his health permits. It was privately understood that the Mixed Courts will refrain from taking action for two or three weeks to give us time to conclude the agreement.
Our military authorities have agreed to keep the soldier in a military hospital under guard and I naturally assume that they will, although I have been seriously disturbed by isolated impression that has reached me of the view that the soldier should be flown out of Egypt to remove him from Egyptian jurisdiction. Hence, I repeat, it is imperative that an agreement be reached immediately because we cannot afford to have the entire position of our Armed Forces in Egypt jeopardized by an open rupture with the Egyptian authorities in a matter of this kind.
By way of suggestion in connection with the difficulties outlined in my 238, February 2, 1 p.m., would it not be possible for us to agree [Page 76] to the Mixed Commission and the payment of its awards regardless of amount and avoid the legal difficulties, if they exist, by having the President of the United States direct (which action need not be communicated to the Egyptian authorities) the United States Claims Commission for the Middle East, set up under authority contained in the act of January 2, 1942 (United States code 31, 224 d), to confirm and pay as pro forma acts all awards of the Mixed Claims Commission up to $1000 and that he direct the War and Navy Departments to pay amounts over $1000 (which are likely to be rare) from special funds at their disposal. We also desire the views of the State and War Departments on the question of the desirability of having the Mixed Commission composed of two Americans and two Egyptians rather than one each as a Commission of that size might minimize the number of occasions when a neutral member would have to be called in. The Egyptians will agree to either one or two members each.
The Navy Department should also be consulted in this matter as there will be cases involving their personnel in Egypt.
In connection with the past delay in this matter, I wish to add for the Department’s confidential information that our negotiations which have been in progress since last spring have been delayed from time to time due to frequent changes in and absences of the legal military personnel at Headquarters here.