Iraq rejects US terror extradition

2012-08-02 20:38
In this file photo from 2007, US military spokesperson  Kevin J Bergner speaks during a press conference in Iraq, near a poster of a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq. (AP)

In this file photo from 2007, US military spokesperson Kevin J Bergner speaks during a press conference in Iraq, near a poster of a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq. (AP)

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Baghdad - An Iraqi court has rejected a request to send a terror commander to the United States for trial, a decision that apparently ends the Obama administration's efforts to prosecute the Lebanese Hezbollah figure held in Iraq for the 2007 killings of five American soldiers.

The US believes Ali Mussa Daqduq is a top threat to Americans in the Mideast, and had asked Baghdad to extradite him even before two Iraqi courts found him not guilty of masterminding the 2007 raid on an American military base in the holy Shi’ite city of Karbala.

But the 30 July decision by the Iraqi central criminal court ordered that Daqduq be freed immediately. It also makes it clear that Iraq believes the legal case against Hezbollah commander is over.

"It is not possible to hand him over because the charges were dropped in the same case," the three-judge panel ruled. "Therefore, the court decided to reject the request to hand over the Lebanese defendant Ali Mussa Daqduq to the US judiciary authorities and to release him immediately."

Review

The US Embassy in Baghdad declined to comment on Thursday and referred questions about the case to Washington.

In an AP interview last month, the national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden said the White House has also asked Iraq's highest appeals court to review and overturn its 25 June order to free Daqduq.

It was not immediately clear on Thursday whether that review was continuing.

Daqduq's lawyer, Abdul-Mahdi al-Mitairi, said the militant is still being held under house arrest in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. But he said he will push to have Daqduq released before the end of Ramadan, the ongoing holy Muslim month that ends later in August.

Washington believes the Lebanese-born Daqduq worked with Iranian agents to train Shi’ite militias to target the US military during the years of sectarian violence that gripped Iraq over the last decade.

His case has illustrated the tricky aftermath of the long US military campaign in Iraq that ended last year and has elements of both Iraqi and US internal politics.

Public threat

Daqduq was detained for more than four years by the US military before it left Iraq last December. He was handed over to Iraqi authorities as required when the troops left, and amid a debate between the Democratic White House and Republicans in Congress over whether high-risk terror suspects should be brought to the US for trial.

Republican lawmakers said Daqduq was too much of a public threat to be incarcerated on American soil, and wanted him to be held at the contentious military detention centre at the Navy base on Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

President Barack Obama refused. He has promised to close the detention centre at Guantanamo, which became a worldwide symbol of detainee abuses during the Republican administration of President George W Bush.

Since then, two Iraqi courts have cleared Daqduq of the terrorism and forgery charges that Iraq's government lodged against him. The new court order says the Pentagon issued the extradition request but did not specify when.

Iraqi government officials privately acknowledge they have little, if any, legal basis for continuing to detain him.

- AP
Read more on:    barack obama  |  iraq  |  us  |  lebanon
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