An al-Qaida suspect, accused of supporting terrorists, made his initial appearance in a U.S. federal court in Philadelphia Friday, following his extradition from Spain.
Ali Charaf Damache was indicted in 2011 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on charges that he aided terrorism, including a plan to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog.
Authorities believe Damache conspired with an American woman, Colleen La Rose, who was known as Jihad Jane, to recruit people to carry out terror attacks in Europe and Asia.
La Rose is serving a 10-year sentence for plotting the attacks, including the plan to kill Vilks, which never materialized.
Trial, not Guantanamo
Damache, who was known online as Black Flag, is the first foreigner brought to the United States to face terrorism charges under the Trump administration.
Trump has said he would be fine with sending terrorism suspects to the military prison in Guantanamo Bay instead of civilian courts.
It was not immediately clear why the Trump administration changed its stance.
Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior only said the U.S. has “consistently used the extradition process to obtain indicted fugitives who are overseas, so that they can stand trial in our federal courts.”
The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the move.
“Prosecuting terrorism cases in federal courts is the right thing to do,” said David Cole, the ACLU national legal director.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, under the Obama administration, said, “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.”
Suspect is Algerian
Damache, who is Algerian and had lived in Ireland for years, was detained in Ireland in 2010, but a court there refused a U.S. request to extradite him and set him free.
In 2015, however, he was arrested in Barcelona, and the Spanish government agreed to extradite Damache to the U.S.