Skip to main content

An artist's sketch shows Sayfildin Tahir Sharif in court in Edmonton on Jan. 20, 2011.

A Canadian man facing extradition on terrorism charges in the United States will wait months more before knowing his fate.

Faruq Khalil Muhammad 'Isa, known locally as Sayfildin Tahir Sharif, appeared in Edmonton court briefly Monday, but his extradition hearing was delayed for the second time since his arrest 12 months ago. He will continue to be held in an Edmonton prison.

The Canadian citizen, an Iraqi Kurd, is accused of helping co-ordinate a 2009 suicide bombing in Iraq that killed seven people, including five American soldiers, and faces seven charges. The U.S. has asked Canada to send him south to face the charges.

However, if he's extradited, there are questions about how long he could be held in pre-trial custody.

A U.S. law signed one month ago, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), allows the government to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely at military prisons. President Barack Obama's administration has been under fire from human-rights activists over the provision.

The law's effect, though, is unclear.

The defence lawyer in the case says the new, untested law could potentially apply to anyone - even someone such as Mr. Sharif, who was indicted before the law passed. A spokesman for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, which is seeking the extradition, initially agreed, telling The Globe and Mail the U.S. court itself will determine whether the Canadian could be detained indefinitely, without trial, under the NDAA.

Late Monday evening, however, after The Globe published the first version of its story, Justice Canada insisted Mr. Sharif, if extradited, would be tried as a civilian only. A few hours later, the same U.S. court spokesman reversed his original statement, and echoed Justice Canada.

"Should [the accused]be extradited, he would face trial in the criminal justice system in the Eastern District of New York, where he would be afforded all the constitutional protections that come with the criminal justice system," Justice Canada spokeswoman Carole Saindon said in an e-mail.

Monday's courtroom delay came at the request of the Crown, acting on behalf of U.S. authorities. "The review and analysis of the evidence by the U.S. has been time-consuming," federal lawyer Stacey Dej told court.

Defence lawyer Bob Aloneissi is scheduled to appear in court in March to argue for more evidence before the extradition hearing, a process known as disclosure. The hearing is now set for May 14 to 16.

The case against the accused is based largely on extensive wire taps and digital surveillance. He is alleged in a U.S. court document to have said he supported the terrorism efforts "1,000,000 %" and allegedly thought it the duty of every Muslim in Iraq to fight the U.S. "invaders." The 39-year-old was arrested in January, 2010, at an Edmonton apartment he shared with his partner and her four children.

If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Editor's note: This story has been amended from a previous version