US

First Al Qaeda suspect extradited to the US under the Trump administration

An accused Al Qaeda recruiter who purportedly conspired with two American women has been extradited from Spain to the U.S., marking the first foreign terror suspect to be brought in for sentencing under the Trump administration.

Algerian-born Irish citizen Ali Charaf Damache, 52, appeared in a Philadelphia federal court Friday and is being charged with conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists. A 2011 indictment implicated Damache – who is believed to be a member of an Ireland-based cell and went by the name “Black Flag” – of backing terrorism. He also is accused of being part of a thwarted scheme to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks because he illustrated the Prophet Muhammad as a dog.

Damache was initially arrested in Ireland in 2010, but released with only the charge of sending a threatening text message. At the request of American officials, he was jailed in Spain in 2015 and had been fighting extradition to the U.S.

His female co-conspirators in the cell included Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, a Colorado woman who married Damache in 2009 the day she arrived in Ireland to meet him in-person for the first time. She went on to assist the FBI in uncovering the Internet terrorist group that enlisted women with Western passports to champion the violent extremism and men to commit violent jihadist attacks in South Asia and Europe.

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Paulin-Ramirez pleaded guilty to providing material aid to terrorists and is now serving eight years behind bars. Pennsylvania woman Colleen R. LaRose, who used the online persona “Jihadi Jane” was also exposed as a cell member. In 2011, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy and terrorism-associated charges and is now serving a 10-year sentence.

Damache’s expedition signals a sharp departure from President Trump’s statements on the campaign trail that terror-linked suspects would be sent to Guantanamo Bay and tried in military courts. Rather, it was the Obama administration policy which contended that the U.S. civilian court system is the most appropriate legal avenue for prosecuting terror suspects apprehended in both the U.S. and abroad.

Damache’s arraignment is scheduled for August 28.