- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal judge expressed misgivings Wednesday about a plea agreement that would return an Iraqi-born Dutch citizen to the Netherlands to serve a prison sentence for planting roadside bombs to kill Americans.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he was prepared to sign off on the deal federal prosecutors struck with Dutch officials and attorneys for Wesam al-Delaema that could put him in a Dutch prison for up to 25 years.

What bothered him was allowing a Dutch judge to be the final arbiter of how long al-Delaema would actually spend in prison.

“What’s the point of my imposing the sentence if it’s up to some other judge?” Friedman said.

Al-Delaema’s attorney, Robert Tucker, made it clear that he would serve less time in the Netherlands. Tucker said the United States has the most punitive sentencing laws in the world. Europe does not sentence like that, he said.

“Everybody understood as clear as a bell, including the government, that this sentence is going to be changed,” he said.

Before agreeing to extradite al-Delaema to the United States two years ago to face trial, prosecutors had to agree to return him to the Netherlands where a Dutch judge would consider the U.S. court’s sentence and decide the prison term.

Friedman said in court Wednesday that he wants to hear lengthy arguments from U.S. prosecutors and defense lawyers so he can prepare a full record to send to the Dutch judge.

In addition, Friedman plans to view a videotape of al-Delaema and other insurgents planting remote-control explosives along a road used by U.S. troops in Iraq.

(This version CORRECTS style of 2nd references to al-Delaema throughout.))

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