DUBLIN (AP) — An Algerian-born terror suspect wanted in the United States walked free from a Dublin court Thursday after winning a two-year legal battle against extradition.
American authorities had sought to convict Ali Charaf Damache, 50, on two counts of conspiring to develop a European terror cell and to aid Pakistan-based terrorists. He had been held without bail in Ireland since March 2013 pending Thursday's Dublin High Court decision.
The court decided to free Damache, who has lived in Ireland for 15 years and has Irish citizenship. Justice Aileen Donnelly ruled that Irish state prosecutors abdicated their responsibilities in 2011 when they ruled out the possibility of trying Damache for the terror charges in Ireland rather than the U.S. That decision, designed to speed Damache's extradition, instead inspired two successful appeals by Damache's legal team. Donnelly said she would not order state prosecutors to reopen the case, meaning the chance of Damache facing new charges in Ireland is minimal.
Damache spent five years behind bars in Ireland after U.S. investigators tied him to a failed 2009 conspiracy to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had drawn jihadis' ire with sketches depicting the prophet Muhammad as a dog.
According to FBI affidavits and other evidence presented in U.S. and Irish courts, Damache was the ringleader who recruited American women to his cause using online chat rooms. He allegedly wanted to build a European terror cell with Western female members who, because of their appearance and background, could avoid being added to terrorist watch lists. Damache also was accused of conspiring to supply a U.S. passport stolen in Ireland for use by an al-Qaida member in Pakistan, possibly delivered by one of his American recruits.
One of his alleged recruits, Colleen "Jihad Jane" LaRose, was arrested by the FBI in Philadelphia soon after she returned from Ireland in September 2009. LaRose, 51, is serving a 10-year sentence for conspiracy to murder and aiding terrorists.