Tuesday 16 July 2019

State seeks to revoke jailed jihadist's Irish citizenship

Legal battle: Algerian-Irish jihadist Ali Charaf Damache was sentenced to 15 years in jail in the USA in October after pleading guilty to terrorism charges. Picture: Patrick Browne
Legal battle: Algerian-Irish jihadist Ali Charaf Damache was sentenced to 15 years in jail in the USA in October after pleading guilty to terrorism charges. Picture: Patrick Browne
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The State is seeking to strip an imprisoned jihadist of his Irish citizenship, the Irish Independent can reveal.

But the move is set to be challenged by lawyers for Algerian-born Ali Charaf Damache, who is serving a 15-year sentence in the US after admitting to providing material support to Islamic terrorists.

As part of a plea-deal, the 53-year-old agreed to be deported to Ireland or Algeria after completing his sentence.

However, if he loses his Irish citizenship, Damache faces being sent to Algeria, where he fears he would be detained and mistreated.

Damache was raised in France from the age of six and moved to Ireland in 2000.

He lived in Waterford City and gained citizenship in 2008 after marrying an Irish woman.

Authorities would later link him to al-Qa'ida and a jihadist cell that was plotting attacks in Europe and southern Asia.

He conspired with Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman also known as 'Jihad Jane', in a plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks in retaliation for a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog.

US prosecutors alleged Damache preyed on vulnerable Americans to get them to fly to Europe and join a violent terrorist cell he was forming.

The decision of the State to seek to revoke Damache's citizenship was revealed in papers filed in the High Court by his lawyers earlier this week.

Damache's legal team is seeking an order restraining Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan from revoking his citizenship. The action also seeks to strike down a section of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, which gives the minister powers to revoke citizenship.

His lawyers claim a section of the act is repugnant to the Constitution and incompatible with the requirements of EU law and the Charter of Fundamental Freedoms of the EU.

Damache fought a long battle against extradition to the US. Although extradition was refused by the Irish courts, he would later be arrested in Barcelona and extradited by Spanish authorities in 2017.

He pleaded guilty in a Federal Court in Philadelphia last July to a charge that while resident in Ireland in or around 2010, he materially assisted an Islamic terrorist conspiracy.

Last October, shortly before he was sentenced, he was informed of the minister's intention to revoke his citizenship on the grounds he had failed in his duty of loyalty and fidelity to the State.

In a statement to ground an application for a judicial review, Damache's lawyers said the deprivation of citizenship would lead to "extremely negative consequences" for Damache, including restriction on his entry to the EU.

They said Damache had children living in France.

The statement said he would also be liable to be deported to Algeria at the end of his sentence.

"The applicant fears that he may be detained there and mistreated by the Algerian security services, having regard to the nature of the offence he has been convicted of," it said.

The statement went on to say Damache rebuffs the contention that he failed in his duty of fidelity to the State.

It said that it was worth considering whether Damache's guilty plea proved he had engaged in conduct which demonstrated a lack of fidelity to the State or was the result of his desire to avoid a 45-year prison sentence if he had unsuccessfully contested the charges.

The statement said that historically there has been a negligible chance of successfully defending federal terrorism charges.

Irish Independent

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