herald

Thursday 19 October 2017

Terror suspect called blackflag is wanted in US

Extradition proceedings against a man wanted to face international terrorism charges in the United States have opened at the High Court in Dublin.

Ali Charaf Damache (49), an Algerian-born Irish citizen who has been living here 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.

The High Court has heard the US alleges it has evidence 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.

It is alleged Damache - who went by the username 'Theblackflag' - 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.

travel

It is contended that part of the alleged conspiracy was to recruit women whose appearance would allow them access to and the ability to travel around Europe.

In January of this year LaRose was jailed for 10 years by a Philadelphia judge, having admitted her involvement in a plot to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who sparked an international controversy by depicting the Prophet Mohammed on the head of a dog.

In the indictment, returned in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, it is alleged that another woman, Jamie Paulin Ramirez, married Damache on September 13, 2009.

The same day she arrived in Ireland from the US. She had never met Damache in person before.

Ramirez was sentenced in the US to eight years, after pleading guilty to providing material support to terrorists.

Damache had twice sought judicial review of the DPP's decision not to prosecute him in Ireland for the offences, but both applications were refused by the High Court.

Counsel for the State, Mr Remy Farrell SC, told the High Court that while it was true that Damache had never set foot on US soil, "even a cursory examination" of the papers showed there was a "more than substantial and significant nexus" between that country and the alleged offences.

attacks

Mr Farrell said it was alleged that after completing training the group planned to return to Europe to support attacks on US citizens.

It was alleged that Damache made contact with and conspired with US citizens for the purpose of what was described as "violent jihad" against the United States.

Counsel said it was also alleged that Damache actively assisted one of the conspirators in leaving the United States. It is alleged that the plot was disrupted at an early stage.

Mr Farrell said a letter from the US Department of Justice stated that, should Damache be surrendered, he would be detained pending trial at a Federal detention centre in Philadelphia.

If convicted, the US Bureau of Prisons would then make an assessment and determine where Damache should be incarcerated.

Counsel for Damache, Mr Mícheál P O'Higgins SC, said the place of detention was "very much an issue" in the case.

The case continues before High Court judge Mr Justice John Edwards.

hnews@herald.ie

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