Trump administration brings Muslim who plotted to murder Muhammad cartoonist to U.S. for trial

Trump had said he would end this Obama practice, and now Eric Holder and others whose support Trump should never have had or wanted are thumping their chests and claiming victory. This is a continuation of the false premise that every jihad plot is a separate criminal incident, unrelated to any and all others. It is part of the denial that there is a global jihad, or any overarching belief system, ideology, or goal that ties these separate incidents to one another.

PHILADELPHIA — The Trump administration has brought a man suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda to the United States to face trial in federal court, backing off its hard-line position that terrorism suspects should be sent to the naval prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rather than to civilian courtrooms.

The suspect, Ali Charaf Damache, a dual Algerian and Irish citizen, was transferred from Spain and appeared on Friday in federal court in Philadelphia, making him the first foreigner brought to the United States to face terrorism charges under President Trump. The authorities believe that Mr. Damache was a Qaeda recruiter. He was charged with helping plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet Muhammad in cartoons.

With Mr. Damache’s transfer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions adopted a strategy that he vehemently opposed when it was carried out under President Barack Obama. Mr. Sessions said for years that terrorism suspects should be held and prosecuted at Guantánamo Bay. He has said that terrorists did not deserve the same legal rights as common criminals and that such trials were too dangerous to hold on American soil.

But the once-outspoken Mr. Sessions was uncharacteristically quiet on Friday. He gave a speech one block away from the Philadelphia courthouse where Mr. Damache appeared and did not address the case. The Justice Department issued only a brief news release, and a spokesman, Ian Prior, said in a statement that Mr. Damache was indicted in 2011 in federal court but did not acknowledge the attorney general’s yearslong criticism or answer questions about whether those opinions have changed.

Mr. Damache, 52, was arrested in Ireland in 2010, but he was released after an Irish judge rejected a request from the United States to extradite him. He was arrested again in 2015 in Spain. Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department began seeking his extradition, and that effort continued under Mr. Trump.

Had the Trump administration insisted on bringing Mr. Damache to Guantánamo Bay, it would have met strong opposition in Europe. America’s closest allies refuse to participate in any effort to bring new prisoners to Guantánamo. They have come to regard the prison there as a legal morass and a symbol of American abuse and mistreatment.

For years, Republicans portrayed civilian trials as a weakness in Mr. Obama’s national security policy. His plan to prosecute Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, in Manhattan fizzled in 2010 amid controversy. Since then, however, federal prosecutors have consistently won convictions and lengthy prison sentences for foreign terrorists and helped glean crucial intelligence.

“It’s good to see that the president and the attorney general now seem to share my belief in the effectiveness of the world’s greatest judicial system and its ability to keep the American people safe,” said former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the leading voice in the Obama administration for using civilian courts. “Their previous positions were political and counterproductive.”

Mr. Damache was wanted in connection with a failed attempt to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had depicted the Prophet Muhammad with a dog’s body. His identity surfaced in the high-profile case of Colleen LaRose, who became known as “Jihad Jane.” Ms. LaRose, of Pennsburg, Pa., pleaded guilty in 2011 to providing support to a terrorist group, conspiring to murder a foreigner and lying to the F.B.I. She was sentenced in 2014 to 10 years in prison.

Mr. Damache was charged with conspiracy to support terrorists and attempted identity theft to facilitate an act of international terrorism. Wearing a black button-down shirt and jeans, he appeared before a federal judge and waived his right for a swift arraignment. He said he had no cash or assets, owned no property or vehicle and had no bank account. He told a judge he wanted to speak with the Irish Embassy

Sources: NY Times and Jihad Watch

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