A Somali man from Minneapolis who is wanted on a slew of terrorism charges in the United States is fighting deportation from the Netherlands, and legal sources say the process could continue well into next year.
Mohamud Said Omar is accused of providing material support to the terrorist group al Shabaab, which is affiliated with al Qaeda and fighting a western-backed transitional government for control of Somalia.
Omar – a permanent U.S. resident – is charged with five counts, including providing material support to terrorists conspiring to kill and kidnap individuals outside the United States. He is alleged to have organized the travel of several young Somali-Americans from Minneapolis to Somalia to fight with al Shabaab in 2007 and 2008. He also traveled to Somalia himself.
In 2007 and 2008, as many as 20 young Somali-Americans left Minneapolis to fight in Somalia. Some have since been killed there.
Sources close to the case in the Netherlands say Omar is suspected of financing the purchase of weapons for al Shabaab. He has denied the charges and any involvement with al Shabaab; and his brothers in Minneapolis have said he was too poor to be involved in such a scheme.
Omar arrived in the Netherlands in November 2008 from Somalia and requested asylum there a month later. He was arrested in November 2009 at an asylum seekers’ hostel. Legal sources in the Netherlands say he cannot be granted asylum because he holds a U.S. green card.
Omar’s petition against deportation was rejected by one Dutch court, but his attorney, Bart Stapert, is taking the case to the Supreme Court. He argues that under Dutch law Omar should not be extradited because the charges he faces in the United States don’t exist in the Netherlands. There is a “huge difference” between U.S. and Dutch anti-terrorism law, he says.
Stapert also says that Omar was involved in legitimate resistance against Ethiopian occupation. Ethiopian forces entered Somalia in late 2006 to support the weak transitional government and expel Islamists from Mogadishu. They left early in 2009. Stapert also argues that Omar was in Somalia before al Shabaab was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department (in February 2008). The lower court gave no reason for its decision to approve Omar’s extradition, and Stapert says the Supreme Court may send the case back for further review.
If the Supreme Court rejects the petition - and it usually does reject appeals against extradition to countries that have treaties with the Netherlands - Stapert plans to file a civil suit against the Dutch government, arguing that deporting him would contravene the European Convention on Human Rights because Omar could later be deported by the United States to Somalia.
For now, Omar remains in a high-security prison in the Netherlands, and the legal arguments will last months and possibly longer. Omar seems unlikely to have his day in an American court anytime soon.