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ISIS suspect in Calif. faces certain execution if sent back to Iraq, lawyers say

Sam Stanton, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Lawyers for the Sacramento man accused of being an Islamic State terrorist who killed a police officer in Iraq in 2014 have set forth a key part of their defense argument: Omar Ameen wasn't in the war-torn country at the time of the alleged killing.

Ameen, a 45-year-old father of four who has lived in Sacramento since early 2016, faces a court hearing in federal court Monday as part of the government's efforts to extradite him back to his home nation of Iraq to face charges in the June 22, 2014, slaying of a police officer in Anbar province.

But Chief Assistant Federal Defender Ben Galloway argues in court documents filed in advance of the hearing that sending Ameen back to Iraq virtually guarantees his execution by hanging.

"In the end, the sentence for any such offense is usually death by hanging, accomplished within hours of presidential ratification of the sentence," Galloway wrote, adding that Iraq has one of the highest rates of execution in the world.

Ameen, an auto mechanic arrested Aug. 15 at his apartment in Sacramento's Arden Arcade neighborhood, is being held without bail at the Sacramento County Main Jail and is due in court Monday for a hearing to establish that he is, indeed, the suspect named by Iraqi authorities as Omar Ameen.

Galloway does not dispute that, saying in his court filings that Ameen "acknowledges being the person identified in the Iraqi arrest warrant" and will waive an identity hearing.

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But Galloway added that Ameen "adamantly denies having been involved in the charged offense and, in fact, was not even in Iraq at the time."

Ameen's attorneys provide no alibi for him in the latest filing, saying they need more time to investigate the case and are asking U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan to schedule another hearing in December.

Galloway notes that the Iraqi request for extradition is based on "a single purported eyewitness to the alleged murder" and that a statement that witness gave to an Iraqi court in April "is both internally inconsistent and extensively contradicted by that witness's earlier statement taken in October 2017 by the FBI."

Court documents filed by prosecutors describe Ameen as a danger to the community and say he has been a member of al-Qaida in Iraq and the Islamic State terror group, or ISIS, since at least 2004, including time he allegedly spent planting improvised explosive devices while U.S. forces were fighting in Iraq.

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