Saturday 20 January 2018

US claims Irish citizen conspired to create “violent jihad organisation” – High Court

Ali Charaf Damache (Left)
Ali Charaf Damache (Left)

THE United States alleges that an Algerian-born Irish citizen conspired with others to devise and create a “violent jihad organisation” capable of targeting US and Western European citizens, the High Court has heard.

Ali Charaf Damache (48), who has been living in Ireland for a decade, is wanted in the United States to face charges relating to the conspiracy to provide material support for terrorists and attempted identity theft to facilitate an act of international terrorism.

Counsel for the Attorney General, Remy Farrell SC, told the High Court that an investigation by the FBI alleged that, from early 2008 to July 2011, Damache and several co-conspirators devised and organised a violent jihad organisation with the intent to target US and Western European citizens.

It is alleged Damache - who went by the online username “the black flag” - also participated in a conspiracy to transfer a passport stolen from a US citizen to an individual in Pakistan whom the conspirators believed to be a member of Al Qaeda.

Mr Farrell said the US government alleged it had evidence that would establish that Damache conspired with American woman Colleen LaRose - who used the online name ‘Jihad Jane’ - and others to create a terror cell in Europe capable of targeting both US and western European citizens.

He said the United States contended that this would be shown at trial by the testimony of numerous witnesses as well as corroborating physical evidence.

Counsel said US authorities stated that should Damache be returned to the US for trial, he would be held in the Philadelphia detention centre, and should he be convicted, it would then be decided in what State and in what facility he would be incarcerated. 

Damache’s legal team previously told the High Court that people charged with terrorism offences in the US can end up in the ADX super-maximum-security prison in Florence, Colorado, where prisoners are kept in complete solitary confinement and where conditions were described by a former warden as a “clean version of hell”.

The respondent’s counsel said they would seek a detailed expert report on the manner in which prisoners are kept in the Colarado facility.

Mr Justice Edwards this afternoon adjourned the case to hear a separate application for leave to seek judicial review of the extradition proceedings. 

Counsel for Damache, Mícheál O’Higgins SC, told the court that in essence it was contended that the United States had “cherry-picked the most American parts” of the alleged offences for their request, whereas a fair reading would conclude that the alleged offences had Ireland as their hub.

He said judicial review was sought on the basis that the decision not to prosecute Damache in Ireland for the offences for which he is sought fails to take into regard the impact extradition would have on his constitutional rights. 

Counsel said it appeared the State had decided not to prosecute Mr Damache and had unlawfully delegated the prosecution to the US instead. 

Mr O’Higgins said any such decision amounted to a breach of Mr Damache's rights, and while the applicant’s legal team had asked to be furnished with reasons for the decision, none were provided by the State.

He said it would be contended that the State's decision was disproportionate, unreasonable and made his client's extradition to the US a more likely outcome.

In proceedings against the DPP, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Ireland and the Attorney General Mr O’Higgins said Damache is seeking various orders, including one quashing the DPP's decision not to prosecute him.

He is also seeking an order compelling the DPP to give reasons why the DPP is not going to prosecute him for the offences for which his extradition is sought by the United States.

If convicted of the charges against him as laid out by an indictment returned in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in October 2011, Damache faces a potential sentence of 45 years in prison.

Judicial review proceedings are expected to continue tomorrow at the High Court in Dublin.


Brian Kavanagh

Online Editors

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