Sunday 18 March 2018

Algerian 'aided terror attack bid'

US investigators claim they can link him to a woman from Philadelphia who became radicalised in online chatrooms
US investigators claim they can link him to a woman from Philadelphia who became radicalised in online chatrooms

An Algerian facing extradition to the US on international terrorism charges planned to get others to train with al Qaida to attack US and European targets, a court has heard.

Ali Charaf Damache, who was arrested following an alleged plot to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, is wanted by authorities in Pennsylvania for conspiracy to provide material support for terrorists and attempted identity theft to facilitate an act of terrorism.

US investigators claim they can link him to a woman from Philadelphia who became radicalised in online chatrooms and used the cyber codename Jihad Jane.

If convicted in the US - Theblackflag as he was known on the internet - faces up to 45 years behind bars.

Lawyers for the 47-year-old claim he should have gone on trial in Ireland and that extradition would be against his constitutional rights.

Opening the case for the Attorney General at the High Court in Dublin, barrister Remy Farrell alleged Damache made contact over the internet with a woman in the US in 2009 and told her he was a devoted jihadist in Ireland.

Mr Farrell claimed the accused planned for a small group to go to an al Qaida camp in Pakistan to train in explosives and "then return to Europe and support attacks on targets that would kill American and European citizens".

The barrister alleged he arranged for Colleen LaRose - a Pennsylvania woman who called herself Jihad Jane online - to travel to the Netherlands and Ireland and gave her spiritual guidance.

On return to the US in October 2009 she was arrested and later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to her role in a plot to kill Vilks, who controversially depicted the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog.

The cartoons were printed in a newspaper in Sweden in 2007.

Damache was arrested last March as he walked free from Waterford courthouse minutes after pleading guilty to making a menacing phone call to US Muslim activist Majed Moughni in January 2010.

His three year sentence had been backdated to his original arrest in March 2010, when he was detained as part of the international investigation in to the Vilks plot.

Defence barrister Micheal O'Higgins told the court his client wants a judicial review into why Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) did not deal with the case as the alleged offence happened in Ireland, and why it would not outline its reasons for that decision.

"The core of the judicial review is the DPP's decision not to deal with it here and the DPP's refusal to outline its reasons why," he said.

Elsewhere, Mr Justice John Edwards rejected an application by Mr O'Higgins for the judge to excuse himself from hearing an application for the judicial review tomorrow amid claims he had been biased towards the DPP at an earlier hearing over the discovery of documents.

The judge ruled that if he grants leave for a judicial review, it would be more convenient for his court to deal with the matter as opposed to adding it to another court list.

Damache, who has lived in Ireland for more than a decade, speaks English, Arabic, French and Algerian.

He has brought a separate legal action against the state over conditions in Cork prison as he awaited the hearing.

He claimed he was subjected to insults and abuse by fellow inmates and prison staff, charges which are denied.

Press Association

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