- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An Iraqi-born Dutch citizen pleaded not guilty yesterday in federal court in Washington to charges of conspiring with insurgents to attack U.S. military personnel in Iraq — the first U.S. criminal prosecution arising from terrorist activities in Iraq.

Wesam al-Delaema, 33, extradited from the Netherlands on Saturday, had been sought by the U.S. government since 2003, when he and other members of the “Mujahideen from Fallujah” videotaped themselves planting explosives along an Iraqi road used by U.S. troops.

The videotape, which was widely shown on Arabic TV stations, was seized by Dutch police who raided Mr. al-Delaema’s house in Amersfoort in May 2005 following a tip from U.S. authorities.

Mr. al-Delaema was returned to the United States after being held in the Netherlands for nearly two years, where he and his attorneys vigorously fought the U.S. extradition request.

“After a lengthy extradition process, this defendant will now face justice for his efforts in orchestrating and launching roadside bomb attacks against our men and women serving in Iraq,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth L. Wainstein, who heads the Justice Department’s national security division. “We in the ranks of federal prosecutors are honored to play a role in protecting our military colleagues against such deadly and cowardly attacks.”

Mr. al-Delaema entered his not guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman during a 10-minute court hearing. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Maisel told the judge investigators would seek hair samples and other DNA from Mr. al-Delaema, but did not elaborate.

A grand jury indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Washington in September 2005 named Mr. al-Delaema on six counts of conspiracy — to kill U.S. citizens abroad, to use a weapon of mass destruction, to maliciously damage or destroy U.S. government property by means of an explosive, to possess a destructive device during a crime of violence, to use such a device, and to teach the making of an explosive with the intent to further a crime of violence.

The indictment said Mr. al-Delaema traveled from the Netherlands to Iraq in October 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion and, together with his co-conspirators, the Mujahideen from Fallujah, “declared his intentions to kill Americans in Iraq using explosives.”

If convicted of all the charges, Mr. al-Delaema could be sentenced to life in prison.

Mr. al-Delaema has claimed he was forced to make the videotape after being kidnapped and beaten, and feared being beheaded if he resisted. Although in a 2003 interview broadcast on Dutch television, Mr. al-Delaema accused the U.S. government and its allies of waging war in Iraq to control its oil reserves, saying the “Americans and British are coming to our country to steal oil and everyone knows it.”

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said that Mr. al-Delaema, who was born in Fallujah, was arrested by Dutch law-enforcement authorities on May 2, 2005, and initially faced similar charges in that country. Following his arrest, Mr. Boyd said, Dutch law-enforcement and prosecution authorities worked with the FBI in its investigation of Mr. al-Delaema’s reported terrorist activities.

In September 2005, the U.S. government filed a request with the Netherlands seeking Mr. al-Delaema’s extradition. The request was granted by a Dutch court and the Dutch Ministry of Justice and, in December, the request was sustained on appeal in the Netherlands. He was flown to the United States on Saturday, arrested and taken into custody by the FBI.

As part of the extradition agreement, Mr. Boyd said Mr. al-Delaema will be tried in a federal court — not by a military tribunal such as those set up for terror suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He said the U.S. government also will not oppose Mr. al-Delaema serving his sentence in a Dutch prison if he is convicted.

“We will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to bring to justice anyone who plots terrorist attacks against our citizens at home or abroad,” said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor in Washington. “We look forward to working cooperatively with the Dutch authorities in prosecuting this defendant under our criminal laws.”

FBI Assistant Director Joseph Persichini Jr., who heads the bureau’s Washington field office, said Mr. al-Delaema’s extradition “sends a clear message of the FBI’s unwavering dedication to our mission to detect, deter and bring to justice any individual who conspires to commit terrorist acts against any U.S. citizen either in this country or on foreign soil.”

In addition to Mr. Maisel, prosecutors include Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Cohen of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington and trial attorneys Gregg Sofer, Jerome Teresinski and Marla Tusk of the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division at the Justice Department.

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