Plea Likely in U.S. From Iraq Terror Suspect
Thursday, February 26, 2009
A Dutch national accused of planting roadside bombs to kill U.S. troops in Iraq is expected to plead guilty today, ending the first prosecution of an alleged Iraqi insurgent in a U.S. courtroom.
Wesam al-Delaema, 36, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on charges that include conspiring to murder U.S. citizens and possessing a destructive device during a crime of violence. Delaema, who was born in Iraq, is scheduled to plead guilty before U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman, according to a brief docket entry made in the case yesterday.
Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the federal prosecutors handling the case, declined to comment. Delaema's attorney, federal public defender Robert L. Tucker, could not be reached. Delaema can back out of any deal before it is approved by Friedman.
He was arrested by Dutch authorities in May 2005 and extradited to the United States in early 2007.
Authorities have alleged that Delaema traveled to Iraq in 2003 and was a member of the group Mujaheddin From Fallujah, which deployed roadside bombs.
On a videotape seized from his Dutch home, Delaema and other alleged insurgents were shown making, planting and discussing explosives intended to harm U.S. troops operating near Fallujah, authorities have said. On the video, Delaema said in Arabic that "we have executed several operations, and most of them were successful."
Dutch authorities began to investigate Delaema because they thought he may have participated in the 2004 killing of Nicholas Berg, a 26-year-old American businessman, prosecutors have written in court documents.
Berg was abducted in Iraq and beheaded by Islamist militants. Delaema turned out not to be connected to that killing, according to prosecutors.
After a lengthy wiretap investigation of Delaema that turned up discussions of insurgent attacks in Iraq and local crimes, Dutch authorities arrested him, prosecutors have said.
More recently, Delaema was charged with assaulting a corrections officer at the D.C. jail.
Any sentence imposed would be served in the Netherlands. As part of the extradition deal, U.S. authorities agreed not to send Delaema to the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and agreed that he would serve his prison time in his home country.
Dutch officials may amend any sentence imposed by Friedman.