EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) – A judge ruled Friday there is enough evidence to extradite a Canadian man to the United States to face charges that he helped coordinate Tunisian jihadists believed responsible for separate suicide attacks in Iraq in 2009 that killed five American soldiers outside a U.S. base and seven people at an Iraqi police complex.
Sayfildin Tahir Sharif, who holds dual Canadian/Iraqi citizenship, was arrested in 2011 on a U.S. warrant and has been fighting extradition to New York.
The prosecution said intercepted phone and Internet conversations show Sharif helped jihadists contact members of a terror network as they made their way from Tunisia to Iraq to make the attack.
Justice Adam Germain of Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench said the recorded phone calls and emails went far beyond religious enthusiasm.
The case will go to Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson for a final decision on whether the 40-year-old will be sent to New York to face trial.
Sharif’s lawyer, Bob Aloneissi, said they will appeal the judge’s ruling.
Sharif never left Canada as part of the alleged conspiracy. He was born in Iraq but moved to Toronto as a refugee in 1993 and became a Canadian citizen. He has also gone by other names, including Faruq Muhammad’Isa.
His lawyer, Bob Aloneissi, argued in final submissions this week that the prosecution provided no clear evidence that Sharif helped support a terrorist group.
Aloneissi said Sharif’s right to legal advice was violated when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, FBI and U.S. Justice Department officials interrogated him immediately following his Jan. 19, 2011, arrest at an Edmonton apartment.
A U.S. Department of Justice investigator interviewed him with an FBI agent and a RCMP corporal present, the extradition request said. The interview “was conducted in compliance with United States law,” with Muhammad `Isa signing a waiver before voluntarily answering questions, it said.
During the interview, Muhammad `Isa admitted he corresponded by email from Canada with two of the terrorists while they were in Syria, and knew that they were on a mission to kill Americans, the paperwork says. The documents allege he corresponded with “facilitators” who were trying to get the attackers into Iraq, and wired one of them $700.
The judge pointed out this week that the standard of evidence required to extradite someone is much lower than is required for use in a criminal trial.
On Monday, Germain ruled that videotaped statements that Sharif made to police during his interrogation would be admitted as evidence.
If convicted of terrorism charges in the United States, Sharif could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.