Dutch court to free Iraq insurgent who plotted to kill Americans

By Ellen Nakashima
Wednesday, October 13, 2010; 8:31 PM

The United States denounced a Dutch court's decision on Wednesday to grant an early release from prison to a Dutch citizen who had been sentenced to a 25-year term for conspiring to kill Americans in Iraq.

"We are extremely disappointed in the Rotterdam District Court's decision to release Wesam al-Delaema from prison after serving less than six years, and rejecting the 16-year prison term recommended by Dutch prosecutors," Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said.

Delaema was convicted by a U.S. court, then later transferred to Dutch custody. He agreed to accept a 25-year sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

It was unclear whether Delaema had been freed by late Wednesday, but a spokesman for the Dutch national proscutor said his release was imminent.

Delaema, who grew up in Iraq and became a Dutch citizen in 2001, admitted traveling to Iraq in 2003 to be a member of an insurgent group in Fallujah.

He was videotaped with other insurgents planting roadside bombs designed to kill Americans. In one video, a hooded Delaema could be seen brushing dirt away from an explosive device and then helping to rebury it. In another clip, he could be heard saying, "We have executed several operations and most of them were successful. . . . The casualties have gone beyond your imagination."

Dutch police believed Delaema might have been involved in the May 2004 killing of an American contractor in Iraq. They turned up no evidence linking him to the killing, but did turn up the other evidence linking him to terrorist activity, U.S. prosecutors said.

After Dutch police arrested Delaema in May 2005, a two-year extradition battle ensued in which the United States agreed that if he were tried in a U.S. court, he would be sent home to serve his sentence, and that the Dutch courts would be able to review and possibly modify the terms of the sentence.

"Mr. al-Delaema deserved to serve a prison sentence that represented the severity of his crime," Sweeney said.

She said that when the United States sent him home, it provided evidence of Delaema's crimes, including an admission of aggravated assault that resulted in the hospitalization of a guard from the District of Columbia jail.

"We strongly disagree with any assertion or conclusion that the conditions under which Delaema was held in custody in the United States - which were identical to those of other inmates - justified shortening the length of his prison term in the Netherlands," Sweeney said.

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