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Tue Apr 9, 2013, 01:11 PM

 

Ex-US soldier who 'fought in Syria' could face execution

A former US soldier who allegedly fought Syrian government forces with a group linked to al-Qaeda could face the death penalty, prosecutors have said.

They told a court that Eric Harroun, 30, could face execution if his actions are found to have caused a death.

During interviews with the FBI, Mr Harroun allegedly said he had shot 10 people in Syria, but was not sure if he had killed anyone.

He was denied bail at Monday's hearing in Alexandria, Virginia.

Mr Harroun, who has been charged with using a weapon outside the US, allegedly fought in Syria with the al-Nusra Front.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22073042

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Response to Paul E Ester (Original post)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 01:21 PM

1. More detail on this story: the death penalty is the MAX sentence--minimum is 30 yrs.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — In his brief but sensational sojourn in the Syrian civil war, Eric G. Harroun made a bit of a splash. He loaded Facebook and YouTube with scenes from the battlefield and gibes at the government of President Bashar al-Assad. In Web postings by both sides in the bloody conflict, he was “The American” — a former Army private from Arizona fighting with the Syrian opposition.

In mid-March, Syria Tube, a YouTube channel associated with the Syrian government, announced his death with a grisly video. “Terrorists, including American Extremist ‘Eric Harroun,’ Have Been Terminated,” the headline said. Mr. Harroun jauntily replied to an e-mail inquiry from Britain’s Mail Online: “Syrian Media must be smoking something,” the newspaper said he had answered, “because I am alive and well chilling in Istanbul having a martini at the moment.”

But in federal court here on Monday, it was clear just how drastically Mr. Harroun’s luck had turned. Prosecutors said Mr. Harroun, 30, who is accused of firing a rocket-propelled grenade while fighting alongside a designated terrorist group, might ultimately face charges carrying a minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum of the death penalty. A judge declined to release him to home detention in his mother’s custody in Arizona, as the defense sought and a pretrial investigation proposed.

...But Carter Burwell, the assistant United States attorney who argued against Mr. Harroun’s release, portrayed him as violent and unpredictable, with uncertain ideological allegiances. In addition to talking about wanting to fight the Israelis, Mr. Harroun had disturbed some of his neighbors in Tucson by hanging from his balcony the flag of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group that the United States considers to be a terrorist organization....


Much more detail here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/world/eric-harroun-who-fought-with-syrian-rebels-loses-a-court-fight.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&pagewanted=print

If one had to characterize Eric Harroun with a brief phrase, "Not playing with a full deck" would probably fit. I think he sees himself as something akin to a movie action hero, or something, and he likes to talk about how tough he is. His neighbors saw him as that creepy, scary, weirdo guy that one avoids.

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Response to MADem (Reply #1)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 01:29 PM

2. I'm not sure I like or understand this law.

 

I seem to recall Americans going off to fight in foreign wars with some regularity. Now they face the death penalty for doing so?

Okay, I get that it was a designated terrorist group, but it isn't fighting us (at least yet, but that's a different matter).

But I think what really bothers me is this whole concept of extraterritoriality, that US law reaches beyond US borders. This guy was a combatant in a civil war in Syria, not Tucson.

In another recent example of extraterritoriality, the US last week seized a former Guinean official on the high seas, took him to New York, and charged him with facilitating drug deals between Colombia and Europe. Why are we involved? What is our jurisdiction?

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Response to Comrade Grumpy (Reply #2)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 01:37 PM

3. Back then our government was a lot more forthcoming about what wars it was fighting.

If you want to join a paramilitary group now, you'd better make sure it's a CIA approved operation like Brothers to the Rescue.

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Response to JVS (Reply #3)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 02:12 PM

7. "Brothers to the Rescue"

 

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Response to Comrade Grumpy (Reply #2)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 01:37 PM

4. He was fighting with Al Qaeda, in essence.

He's a US citizen. If he wanted to actively renounce his US citizenship, well, that would be a different thing.

What are the details re: your Guinean fellow? Dual citizen? Did they pull him off a US flagged vessel? How "high" were those seas--was he within the territorial limit? Did he commit a crime within the limit?

The USG found a hook, plainly, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to charge the guy.

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Response to Comrade Grumpy (Reply #2)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 01:58 PM

5. You can't just go to another country

and shoot a bunch of people, then come home and act like nothing has happened.

Just replace "Syria" with the name of any other country and you'll see the sense of it.

This type of extraterritorial law pertains in other countries (I'm sure there are similar laws in European countries).

However, having said that I haven't heard of a case like this before. The nearest I can think of is John Walker Lindh but he was allegedly fighting against the US.

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Response to CJCRANE (Reply #5)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 03:04 PM

9. Okay, how about "Kosovo?"

 

I distinctly recall reading New York Times stories about Albanian-Americans heading off to fight the Serbs.

And I know we had some Americans and Libyan-Americans participating in the overthrow of Gaddafi.

There were at least a handful of Americans who took up arms against the rightists in Central America in the 1980s.

And there was the Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.

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Response to CJCRANE (Reply #5)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 04:45 PM

11. Normally breaking laws in another country would result in extradition to the country.

Assuming we have an agreement to extradite with that government.

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Response to Comrade Grumpy (Reply #2)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 02:06 PM

6. Extraterritorial jurisdiction is not a uniquely American concept

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraterritorial_jurisdiction#United_States


As for the case of Bubo Na Tchuto, the argument is that since his drugs end up in America, America can track him down and arrest him anywhere.

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Response to hack89 (Reply #6)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 03:01 PM

8. "The argument is that since his drugs end up in America..."

 

Well, that's a strange argument, given that we're talking about a Colombia-West Africa-Europe pipeline.

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Response to Comrade Grumpy (Reply #8)

Tue Apr 9, 2013, 03:09 PM

10. If you read the indictment, it is part of a much bigger sting operation

that involved organizations that also smuggled drugs into America. It also involve weapons smuggling to a terrorist organization.

I view this the way the British viewed anti-slavery efforts. The British Navy stopped and seized slaving ships on the high seas when ever they found them - they viewed slavery as a crime against humanity and refused to allow slavers the sanctuary of the high seas. Same for drugs cartels and terrorists - they should have no sanctuary anywhere in the world and it is the moral obligation of all nations to arrest them whenever possible.

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