EDMONTON — The federal government plans to extradite a Canadian citizen to the United States to face terrorism charges, says his lawyer.
Sayfildin Tahir Sharif is accused of conspiracy to kill Americans and of supporting a terror group that took part in a 2009 suicide bombing in his native Iraq. Five U.S. soldiers were killed when a truck filled with explosives was detonated at a military checkpoint.
Bob Aloneissi, Sharif’s lawyer, says he has received a letter from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson that indicates the federal government intends to hand over Sharif to stand trial in the United States.
He also faces a new charge there of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. nationals abroad.
“Mr. Nicholson has decided to surrender my client to the United States, which is very disappointing,” Aloneissi said Wednesday. “But he has made that decision conditional on the United States not seeking the death penalty in relation to this new charge.”
The federal Extradition Act says the minister can refuse to make a surrender order if the person to be extradited could face the death penalty under the laws of the extradition partner.
Sharif, who also goes by Faruq Khalil Muhammad Isa as well as another name, has been in custody in Edmonton since his arrest Jan. 19, 2011.
Carole Saindon, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said Nicholson made the surrender order decision on “Isa” June 25.
“He has 30 days to file a judicial review of this decision,” she said in an email from Ottawa.
Aloneissi said he will be consulting with his client and suggested he would file a challenge of the federal justice minister’s order.
“We will be looking at appealing Mr. Nicholson’s decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal,” he said.
A separate appeal has already been filed over last October’s Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruling that found there was enough evidence for an extradition.
The lawyer expects both appeals would be heard together.
During hearings last year on the U.S. extradition request, the Crown argued that intercepted telephone and Internet conversations showed Sharif helped jihadists contact members of a terror network as they made their way from Tunisia to Iraq to make the attack on the soldiers.
Alberta Queen’s Bench Justice Adam Germain ruled that the recorded phone calls and emails went far beyond “religious enthusiasm” on Sharif’s part.
Germain said all of the evidence leads to an inescapable conclusion that the legal extradition test is established on the original two charges, which carry a possible life sentence in the U.S.
Aloneissi has argued that there is no clear evidence that proves Sharif helped support a terrorist group or that he agreed to help kill anyone. He said the Crown’s case was based on police interpretations of vague statements by Sharif that have been translated to English from Arabic.
Sharif, an ethnic Kurd, was born in Iraq but moved to Toronto as a refugee in 1993. He became a Canadian citizen in 1997. When Sharif was arrested, he was living in an Edmonton apartment with his girlfriend and her children.
Sharif has said the terrorist allegations against him came from people who were tortured by American investigators.
He acknowledge that his real name is Isa, but said he changed it to escape a Turkish refugee camp when he was a young man.
Sharif said he feared that using his real name again would have made it difficult for him to immigrate to Canada.