Extradition Records|En Route to Terrorist

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A convicted terrorist challenging his extradition is close to retrieving the U.S. government’s records on him, after a federal judge’s ruling.
     The U.S. took custody of Nizar Trabelsi, a former professional soccer player of Tunisian origin, in October 2013 after he served 12 years in Belgium for his involvement in a plot to attack a Belgian military base that allegedly stores some U.S. nuclear weapons.
     Belgian authorities arrested Trabelsi within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and a grand jury in the U.S. indicted him five years later.
     The FBI claimed that Trabelsi had met with Osama bin Laden in a 2001 trip to Afghanistan, and that he plotted with al-Qaida to kill U.S. nationals in Europe.
     Trabelsi has contended that the decision to extradite him was political and will subject him to inhumane treatment in the U.S., including a life sentence without parole.
     Though Belgium’s highest court rejected that claim, the European Court of Human Rights ruled earlier this year that Trabelsi’s extradition violated his human rights under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
     The Feb. 16 decision awarded Trabelsi 60,000 euros in damages and 30,000 more to cover expenses.
     Trabelsi meanwhile has been fighting in Washington to have the U.S. government turn over correspondence related to his extradition.
     Though a federal judge ordered the government this past May to turn over certain correspondence, the U.S. government complained that disclosure of the records would have a “chilling effect” on its extradition work with foreign countries, and that Belgium has expressed “serious concerns” over the development.
     To escape handing the records over, the government asked the court for reconsideration of its attorney-client, work-product and deliberative-process privileges.
     Though Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts rejected most of the government’s protests last week, he did agree to assess the materials for “privileged opinion work product.”
     “Trabelsi has demonstrated a substantial need for the requested correspondence, as it may expose the government duplicity he claims in support of his motion to dismiss the indictment,” the Sep. 3 decision states.
     Noting that “the government has established a compelling interest in protecting the requested correspondence from open and public disclosure at this stage,” Roberts agreed to review the documents privately in chambers before turning them over to Trabelsi.
     “If the work product at issue demonstrates potential violations of an extradition treaty in a way that might warrant dismissal of the superseding indictment, the privilege must give way,” Roberts wrote.
     The government cannot determine which materials to produce, Roberts said, ordering it to hand over all responsive materials.
     “The government’s continued resistance to producing the requested correspondence raises concerns regarding full compliance with the 5/8/15 Order,” Roberts wrote.
     Representatives for Trabelsi have not yet returned a request for comment. The U.S. Attorney General’s Office declined to speak about the case.
     The government has until 5 p.m. on Sept. 11 to hand over the requested documents for Roberts to review them in chambers and decide what, if anything, to hand over to Trabelsi.

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