Lawyer: Doc­tor to fight US ex­tra­di­tion, ter­ror case

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - FRONT PAGE -

MANILA -- A Filipino doc­tor ac­cused by US author­i­ties of plot­ting at­tacks in New York City, in­clud­ing in con­cert venues and Times Square, de­nies that he helped fi­nance the dis­rupted plot and will fight a US ex­tra­di­tion re­quest, his lawyer told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Tues­day.

Rus­sell Salic do­nated money to char­ity but never to ter­ror­ists, re­nounces ter­ror­ism and has never held a gun in his life, lawyer Dalomi­lang Parahi­man said in an in­ter­view.

US pros­e­cu­tors said Friday that Salic was one of three Is­lamic State group sym­pa­thiz­ers who plot­ted bomb­ings and shoot­ings to take place at New York City con­cert venues, sub­way sta­tions and Times Square last year be­fore US agents thwarted the plot.

A Cana­dian man ar­rested in the US last year has pleaded guilty; the other man was ar­rested in Pak­istan.

In May last year, Salic al­legedly sent ap­prox­i­mately $423 from the Philip­pines to an un­der­cover FBI agent pos­ing as an Is­lamic ex­trem­ist to help fund the planned New York at­tacks. Salic, who al­legedly was known to fel­low ex­trem­ists as “Abu Khalid” or “the doc­tor,” also in­formed the un­der­cover agent that he in­tended to con­tinue send­ing ad­di­tional money in sup­port of the Is­lamic State group in the fu­ture, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments made pub­lic in New York.

Salic al­legedly told the un­der­cover agent that his ul­ti­mate goal was to join the Is­lamic State group in Syria but that “it would be a great plea­sure if we can slaugh­ter” peo­ple in New York, the doc­u­ments said.

“I only do­nated money for hu­man­i­tar­ian con­sid­er­a­tion out of pity for the needy but I have never thought of giv­ing funds to the Isis,” his lawyer quoted Salic as say­ing, us­ing an acro­nym of the Is­lamic State group.

Once, Salic do­nated money to pre­vent stu­dents from los­ing their teacher, who has not been re­ceiv­ing his salary. An on­line post­ing about his good deed prompted many other peo­ple to seek the doc­tor’s help, though he was only able to help about five non­govern­ment groups and peo­ple, in­clud­ing an Aus­tralian, Parahi­man said.

The lawyer also said Salic told him his Facebook ac­count was hacked, al­low­ing the hacker to chat with oth­ers while pre­tend­ing to be the doc­tor.

Salic de­cided to sur­ren­der to Manila’s Na­tional Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion in April after be­ing in­formed by Philip­pine air­port of­fi­cials that he was be­ing sought for ter­ror­ism-linked charges.

Salic then had planned to travel to Hong Kong but did not pro­ceed with the trip.

Chief State Coun­sel Ricardo Paras told AP the US gov­ern­ment sent an ex­tra­di­tion re­quest in May. The Philip­pine gov­ern­ment filed the re­quest be­fore a Manila court on be­half of the US and hear­ings on the re­quest would start next week.

Aside from the US charges, Salic is also fac­ing sep­a­rate crim­i­nal com­plaints for his al­leged in­volve­ment in the ab­duc­tion of six sawmill work­ers, two of whom were later be­headed, in the south­ern Philip­pine town of Butig in Lanao del Sur province in 2016, ac­cord­ing to Philip­pine state pros­e­cu­tors.

Even if the Manila court ap­proves the US ex­tra­di­tion re­quest, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice in Manila would have to de­cide whether to let Salic face crim­i­nal com­plaints in the Philip­pines first or be al­lowed to be flown to the US to an­swer the ter­ror­ism al­le­ga­tions there, Paras said.

The kid­nap­pings and be­head­ings have been blamed on the so-called Maute group, a band of mil­i­tants aligned with IS that was largely un­known un­til they led a siege of south­ern Marawi city in May. AP

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