The Netherlands’ government has extradited a naturalized Dutch citizen charged with involvement in terror attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, the Justice Ministry said Saturday.
Iraqi-born Wesam al Delaema, 32, was on a plane headed for an undisclosed location in the U.S., said Justice Ministry spokesman Ivo Hommes. In December, Dutch courts ruled that al Delaema could be extradited for his alleged role in attacks on U.S. forces in 2003.
Al Delaema will become the first suspect tried in a U.S. court for alleged terrorism in Iraq’s bloody insurgency. He is charged in the U.S. with possession of explosives and conspiracy to use them in an attack. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Al Delaema claims he is innocent and his lawyers have argued that the U.S. does not have the right to try him.
Video shows bomb preparation
Evidence against him includes a videotape he filmed of a group called “Warriors of Fallujah” preparing a roadside bomb, which was widely shown on Arabic TV stations. The tape was seized by police who raided al Delaema’s house in the Dutch city of Amersfoort in May 2005 following a tip from U.S. authorities.
Al Delaema’s attorney, Victor Koppe, had argued he feared al Delaema could be tortured by U.S. authorities and said the U.S. legal system couldn’t be trusted.
U.S. authorities have given assurances that al Delaema will be tried in a federal court, not by a military commission such as those set up for terror suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They also said they would not oppose al Delaema serving his sentence in a Dutch prison if he is convicted.
“There is no reason to believe that the U.S. authorities will not abide by the commitments they have given or ... deprive the suspect of his fundamental rights,” a judge at the Appeals Court in The Hague wrote in a Dec. 19 ruling, rejecting al Delaema’s final appeal.
Al Delaema traveled to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion.
Said he was forced to make video
In extradition hearings, he argued that he was forced to make the video after being kidnapped and beaten. He said he feared being beheaded if he resisted.
In a 2003 interview broadcast on Dutch television, al Delaema accused the U.S. and its allies of waging war in Iraq to control its oil reserves.
“The Americans and British are coming to our country to steal oil and everyone knows it,” he said.
“I don’t care if I myself die or not. I want to offer myself up for my land, for my people. I’m not more or less important than the women and children who you see on television dying because of America.”
His family said the interview was intended as a joke.