Judge plans to send US citizen accused of murders to Iraq
PHOENIX (AP) – A US prosecutor trying to send a Phoenix driving school owner to Iraq to face charges in the 2006 murder of two Iraqi police officers admitted on Thursday that statements made by people claiming to have been witnesses to the crimes contained inconsistencies, but still urged a judge to validate the claim.
Prosecutor Todd Allision said the documents provided by the Iraqi government in its extradition request establish probable cause in support of the two murder charges against Ali Yousif Ahmed Al-Nouri, an Iraqi native who came to the States- United as a refugee in 2009 and became a US citizen. in 2015.
Ahmed is accused of participating in the two attacks on the streets of Fallujah as the leader of an al-Qaida group. Ahmed denied being involved in the killings and being a member of a terrorist group.
Ahmed’s attorney, Jami Johnson, said some people who provided information to investigators had not witnessed the shooting and heard about it indirectly. Johnson also said a man detained by Iraqi police who claimed to be a member of the terrorist group told investigators Ahmed took an officer’s gun during one of the murders, while claiming on another occasion that someone else had taken the gun.
US Magistrate Judge Michael Morrissey, who is expected to rule later, will determine whether there is probable cause to support each charge and, if so, certify the extradition request. Ultimately, the decision whether or not to send Ahmed to Iraq will rest with the office of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Johnson said Ahmed would not get a fair trial amid corruption in the Iraqi criminal justice system and would likely be executed if forced to return to his home country.
The defense attorney questioned why it took more than a decade for Iraqi authorities to formally charge his client and criticized accounts of the murders of informants who had “everything to gain by handing over to the Trump administration a supposed “terrorist refugee” during an election year. ”
The Trump administration had sharply criticized the Obama-era colonization program, questioning whether enough had been done to eliminate those with ties to terrorism.
Almost three months ago, a judge in northern California refused to allow the extradition to Iraq of Omar Abdulsattar Ameen, accused of committing a murder for the Islamic State group.
The judge said cell phone evidence showed Ameen, who was granted refugee status in the United States in 2014 on the grounds that he had been a victim of terrorism, was in Turkey at the time of the murder.
In Ahmed’s case, in the first shooting for which he is accused, authorities claim that one assailant pointed a gun at the head of a witness, while another started shooting at a police officer but had a malfunction with his weapon.
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 records.
Four months later, Iraqi authorities said Ahmed and other men shot and killed Officer Khalid Ibrahim Mohammad while he was sitting outside a store.
A person who witnessed the shooting recognized Ahmed, whose mask had come off, as one of the attackers, according to court records.
Ahmed’s lawyers said 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 had spent time in a Syrian prison, although they could not determine what led him behind bars.
Defense attorneys say Ahmed volunteered in the Phoenix refugee community and worked as a cultural advisor to the U.S. military, traveling to bases in other states to assist military personnel while that he was preparing to deploy to the Middle East. He bought a house on the northwestern outskirts of the Phoenix subway and operated a driving school largely serving immigrants from the Middle East.
Prosecutors questioned Ahmed’s credibility, saying he gave conflicting explanations of how he was shot and wounded in Iraq.
They said criticism of the Iraqi criminal justice system and what Ahmed might face if returned to Iraq has no bearing on whether Ahmed can be extradited.