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Sayfildin Tahir Sharif appears in court in Edmonton on Jan. 20, 2011 in this artist's sketch. The lawyer for Sharif, a Canadian man suspected of supporting a terrorist group, says his client will fight extradition to the United States. (Amanda McRoberts/CP/Amanda McRoberts/CP)
Sayfildin Tahir Sharif appears in court in Edmonton on Jan. 20, 2011 in this artist's sketch. The lawyer for Sharif, a Canadian man suspected of supporting a terrorist group, says his client will fight extradition to the United States. (Amanda McRoberts/CP/Amanda McRoberts/CP)

Extradition case

Partner of alleged Canadian terrorist grapples with competing realities Add to ...

When the Mounties came knocking one frigid January day in Edmonton, Aisha Rain thought it was a joke. So did her common-law husband. “Is this Candid Camera?” she recalls him asking.

It wasn’t, and her life has never been the same. Police had come that day, one year ago, to arrest her partner. “I remember thinking, like, this can’t be happening,” Ms. Rain says.

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At issue was a clash between portraits of two men, worlds apart.

One was Sayfildin (Sayf) Tahir Sharif, 39, the contractor who Ms. Rain, a first nations woman, quickly fell in love with after they met in the summer of 2009. She converted to Islam to be with the man, an Iraqi Kurd who was granted Canadian citizenship in 2005. He became a father figure to her four children. They cooked, lived and prayed together in an Edmonton apartment.

The picket-fence image is at odds with the portrait of Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a man the U.S. Department of Justice alleges is a terrorist. The Justice Department alleges that a few months before meeting Ms. Rain, Mr. Sharif helped co-ordinate a suicide bombing attack in Iraq that killed five American soldiers; that he pledged his support for a war on America “1,000,000 per cent;” that he sent terrorists money.

It’s that man, they say, who has been posing under the alias of “Sayf” – Arabic for “sword.”

“I was more in shock, than anything, trying to replay every conversation Sayf and I had, trying to fit what they said about him and what I knew of him. Did the pieces fit together?” Ms. Rain recalls in one of a series of e-mailed statements to The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Sharif has sat in an Edmonton jail since his arrest as the United States attempts to have him extradited to face seven terrorism-related charges in New York state. On Jan. 30, his extradition hearing was delayed until May. If he’s indeed sent south, an overwhelming likelihood in such cases, he’ll spend his life in prison if found guilty – or, potentially, without a trial.

In December, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a new law into effect allowing accused terrorists to be held indefinitely in military prisons if they’re tied to al-Qaeda or related terrorist groups. Justice Canada doesn’t believe it would apply in this case, but some lawyers and observers say that’s simply wrong. The law is, at best, untested and murky, and Mr. Sharif could be held.

Canada doesn’t extradite people if they’ll face the death penalty. Indefinite detention, however, is new ground. And the only thing standing between Mr. Sharif and that possible fate under an unproven law is a brief extradition hearing and the chance of potential intervention, however slim, by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, who signs off on all extraditions.

“Holding someone in custody without trial for an indeterminate length is unconscionable and an affront to basic democratic principles,” Mr. Sharif’s lawyer, Bob Aloneissi, said. He sees it as a fundamental question of justice – the extensive evidence against his client notwithstanding.

The attack

It was clear the dump truck didn’t belong. With white bags piled in the back, it sped along the streets of the volatile city of Mosul, Iraq, breaking through a U.S. military convoy before hitting a wall and exploding.

The damage was catastrophic, the truck “almost completely disintegrated,” one soldier recalled. Two Iraqi policemen and five American soldiers died.

Among them was Corporal Jason Pautsch, 20, a devout Christian with a trademark phrase: “All the pretend Gods want you to die for them, but instead Jesus died for you.” His family coped through faith.

“The advantage I had from the beginning is I knew I hadn’t lost Jason. I didn’t go to the lost and found looking for him because I knew he wasn’t lost. He was in heaven,” his father David, an advertising entrepreneur, said from Davenport, Iowa. “I kind of envy him.”

An arrest was welcome news to the elder Mr. Pautsch, but not for the reason one might think. He bears no ill-will toward whomever is found guilty of co-ordinating the attack.

Instead, he wants to meet that person.

“I’d like to talk to him privately and personally. Number one, I’d like to tell him I forgive him. Number two, I’d like to tell him he doesn’t have to go around murdering people to get into heaven. Jesus paid the price for him. Give it up, man,” Mr. Pautsch said.

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