Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal now awaiting his day in US court

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CONTROVERSIAL Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal lost his battle to have his extradition to the United States quashed, and in short order is to be extradited to face terrorism-related charges in that country.

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a decision by Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court Judge Broderick Smith, who last year ordered el-Faisal be extradited to the United States.

Judge Smith had signed an extradition warrant for the accused man to be handed over to US authorities in the state of New York, but el-Faisal’s attorney Burt Samuels challenged the order by applying for a writ of habeas corpus to have his client released.

Following that, Samuels, in a full court hearing in February, argued that his client’s constitutional right to due process and to a fair hearing had been breached primarily because the original source material from which the evidence was derived had not been disclosed.

He also claimed that the extradition order was in contravention of Jamaica’s Constitution.

But a unanimous ruling handed down by Supreme Court Justices Carol Lawrence-Beswick, Kissock Laing, and Stephanie Jackson-Haisley declared that a writ of habeas corpus would not be ordered for el-Faisal’s discharge from custody.

Justice Laing, whose judgement was adopted by Justice Jackson-Haisely without addition, said, “There is no proper challenge to the constitutionality of the extradition treaty such as would enable this court to make a declaration in these proceedings that it is unconstitutional and void.”

On the issue of whether el-Faisal had been afforded a fair hearing, Justice Laing reasoned that the fairness in trials as opposed to extradition hearings was not the same.

“I have reached the conclusion that there are different procedural requirements that apply to extradition hearings, as opposed to domestic trials. Fairness is a fluid concept – within obvious limits, of course – which must be assessed within the context of the nature, form, and function of the applicable proceedings,” Justice Lang said in the 62-page judgement.

He also said: “The court has found that there is no entitlement of the claimant to the source material and, therefore, the refusal of the parish judge to order disclosure, could not, without more, have amounted to unfairness.”

Dissenting in part, Justice Lawrence-Beswick reasoned that the concept of fairness is not fluid.

“I am not able to see a basis on which to say that the degree of fairness required in extradition proceedings conducted in a Jamaican court is different from that required in a domestic criminal trial. The Jamaican court must be consistently fair in all legal proceedings,” she said in her analysis.

She also found that the non-disclosure of the source material by the requesting State deprived el-Faisal of a fair hearing in a portion of the extradition proceedings.

The 54-year-old accused, christened Trevor William Forrest, was arrested on August 25 , 2017 on an extradition warrant from the United States of America in relation to charges of conspiracy as a crime of terrorism, two counts of soliciting or providing support for an act of terrorism, and two counts of attempted soliciting or providing support for an act of terrorism.

He was taken into custody after a month-long operation carried out by an undercover New York Police Department officer, who allegedly communicated with him via e-mail, text and video chat.

According to local prosecutors, the allegations against el-Faisal indicated that he had an established online presence and was not only a strong supporter of the Islamic faith, but that he acted as a marriage broker for females who wanted to migrate and marry Islamic State members, and also had connections with people interested in joining the terrorist network.

The prosecutor also stated that, based on the allegations, the accused had multiple conversations with an overseas undercover female officer on different social media platforms, to whom he allegedly provided names and contacts to help her join the IS network after she told him she had medical skills.

– Tanesha Mundle

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