PHOENIX – A judge has upheld the Iraqi government’s extradition request for a Phoenix driving school owner who is accused of leading an al-Qaeda group in the killing of two police officers in the Iraqi city of Fallujah 15 years ago and arranged for his extradition Decision to decide after Washington.
In the decision, delivered in Arizona on Friday, US Judge Michael Morrissey concluded that there is a probable reason why Ali Yousif Ahmed Al-Nouri, who came to the United States as a refugee in 2009 and became a US citizen in 2015, did not , was involved in the killings carried out by masked men in June 2006 and October 2006.
The US Department of Justice confirmed that there is no record of anyone ever being extradited to Iraq under a decades-old US-Iraq agreement.
Despite contradicting testimonies from those interviewed about the two attacks, Morrissey ordered the extradition request to be sent to Washington. He said an inconsistency by one person who worked with authorities was not enough to undermine the probable cause in one case, and that other testimonies from an associate in the other murder agree on many important details, although there is an inconsistency in the portrayal of that person.
The magistrate dismissed Ahmed’s claim that his extradition was not permissible under a provision of the US-Iraq accord that prohibits extradition for political crimes. He concluded that by a court standard, al-Qaeda was not part of an internal insurgency or violent political disorder, but that the killings were acts of international terrorism.
David Eisenberg, a lawyer representing Ahmed, said extradition carries the potential risk of execution for his client and he intends to petition the court to review Morrissey’s order.
Morrissey made no conclusions as to whether Ahmed is innocent or guilty of the charges, or whether his extradition is warranted. Instead, he found that there was evidence of a probable cause to support each charge and upheld the motion.
The decision on whether to extradite Ahmed to Iraq ultimately rests with Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s office, although the Justice Department usually plays a driving role in the extradition process. The Justice Department declined to comment on the decision.
Morrissey said the decision on whether humanitarian grounds should be used to refuse extradition was left to the Secretary of State, not the courts.
Prosecutors say Ahmed was seen by witnesses at the killings and later fled Iraq to avoid prosecution.
They questioned Ahmed’s credibility, saying he had given conflicting explanations about how he sustained gunshot wounds in Iraq and that they could not determine why he spent time in a Syrian prison before moving to the United States .
Ahmed denied involvement in the killings and membership of a terrorist group. His lawyers argued that given the corruption in Iraq’s judicial system, Ahmed would not get a fair trial and would likely face execution if forced back to his homeland.
One of Ahmed’s former lawyers had questioned why it had taken more than a decade for Iraqi authorities to formally charge their client, and had criticized reports of the killings of whistleblowers who had “everything to gain by following Trump’s government delivered an alleged ‘terrorist fugitive’ in an election year.”
President Donald Trump’s administration had slammed the Obama-era settlement program and questioned whether enough was being done to weed out those with terrorist links.
Almost a year ago, a judge in Northern California refused to extradite to Iraq Omar Abdulsattar Ameen, who was accused of committing an assassination for the Islamic State. The judge said cellphone evidence showed Ameen, who was granted refugee status in the United States in 2014 for being a victim of terrorism, was in Turkey at the time of the killing.
In the first shooting in which Ahmed is charged, authorities said an assailant put a gun to a witness’s head, while another assailant, who started shooting at a police officer, had his gun malfunction.
Another attacker then killed police lieutenant Issam Ahmed Hussein. The witness later identified Ahmed, who was not wearing a mask, as the leader of the group, according to court documents.
Four months later, Iraqi authorities said Ahmed and other men fatally shot officer Khalid Ibrahim Mohammad as the officer stood outside a store.
A person who witnessed the shooting recognized Ahmed, whose mask had fallen off, as one of the attackers, according to court records.
Ahmed’s lawyers said the violence and unrest in Iraq prompted their client to flee to Syria, where he lived in a refugee camp for three years before moving to the United States. Authorities said Ahmed spent time in a Syrian prison, although they could not determine what put him behind bars.
Defenders say Ahmed volunteered in the Phoenix refugee community and worked as a cultural advisor to the US military. He traveled to bases in other states to help military personnel prepare for deployment in the Middle East.
Ahmed bought a house on the northwest edge of Metro Phoenix and ran a driving school, catering mostly to Middle Eastern immigrants. He has been in custody since his arrest in January 2020.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s first name.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
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https://www.ksat.com/news/national/2022/04/04/extradition-bid-certified-for-man-accused-in-iraq-killings/ Extradition request for man accused in Iraq confirmed