EDMONTON - An Edmonton judge has ruled there is enough evidence to extradite a Canadian citizen to the United States to face terrorism charges, but the process is likely to be delayed by an appeal.
Sayfildin Tahir Sharif is accused of conspiracy to kill Americans and supporting a terror group that took part in a 2009 suicide bombing in his native Iraq. A truck filled with explosives was detonated at a military checkpoint, killing five U.S. soldiers.
The Crown argued that intercepted phone and Internet conversations show Sharif helped jihadists contact members of a terror network as they made their way from Tunisia to Iraq to make the attack.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Adam Germain said the recorded phone calls and emails went far beyond "religious enthusiasm" on the part of Sharif, who also went by the name Faruq Muhammad'Isa.
"The record of the case is logical and supported by Mr. Isa's own words," Germain ruled. "All of the evidence considered in its totality ... leads to an inescapable conclusion."
The case will go to federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson for a final decision on whether the 40-year-old will be sent to New York to face trial. If convicted of terrorism charges in the United States, Sharif could face a maximum life sentence.
Sharif's lawyer, Bob Aloneissi, said he will take the judge's ruling to the Alberta Court of Appeal.
But first, he said, the case goes before the minister, who has up to five months to make a decision and must consider further submissions from both the Crown and the defence.
Aloneissi said he'll also be asking the minister to order Sharif stand trial in Canada.
"Clearly the evidence was gathered here. Clearly there's sufficient evidence to prosecute him here for the offences in Canada. So why not prosecute him here?" he said.
Sharif also has the option of applying for bail while he awaits his appeal, but Aloneissi said if Sharif is extradited to the U.S. he will be detained indefinitely.
Aloneissi argued during the hearing that there is no clear evidence that proves Sharif helped support a terrorist group or that he agreed to help kill anyone. He said the Crown's case is based on police interpretations of vague statements by Sharif that have been translated from Arabic to English.
Sharif, an ethnic Kurd, was born in Iraq but moved to Toronto as a refugee in 1993. He became a Canadian citizen in 1997.
On Jan. 19, 2011, he was arrested at an Edmonton apartment, where he lived with his girlfriend and her children.
Sharif has claimed the terrorist allegations against him came from people who were tortured by American investigators. The judge ruled the claims were heresay.
Sharif also told police after his arrest that he sent $2,800 to a mujahedeen group. But he testified that it was to repay a debt.
Germain cited one email between Sharif and another terror suspect who was "preparing for a one-way journey to death."
Sharif advised the man not to discuss the plan with his family and delete everything off his computer. "Don't leave any trace," Sharif wrote. The pair then discussed the number of virgins the man would get in heaven.
Germain said he could only describe the conversation as "chilling."
He also detailed other messages in which Sharif encouraged his mother and sister to join the cause. "Let it be that you die," Sharif wrote to his sister.
Sharif was further questioned by police about counselling a young woman in Morocco over the Internet to become a suicide bomber, asking her if she wanted go to heaven and be surrounded by angels. Sharif told the RCMP that he was just showing off because he wanted a relationship with the woman and doesn't believe in suicide bombers.
Sharif acknowledge his real name is Isa but he changed it to escape a Turkish refugee camp when he was a young man.
He said he feared that using his real name again would have made it difficult for him to immigrate to Canada.