Pakistan Halts Extradition of US Man Accused of Terror Plot

A U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin accused of planning a terrorist attack in New York on behalf of the Islamic State militant group remains in Pakistan after its High Court temporarily barred his extradition this week.

Talha Haroon, 19, remains held in a Pakistani jail awaiting more legal hearings. After the order Monday, the Pakistan court asked Wednesday for the Interior Ministry to provide more details about his case.

There are no public documents concerning the charges in Pakistan or the United States. Haroon was arrested in Pakistan in September after allegedly making contact with IS backers and hatching a terror plot, his lawyer told VOA.

“The allegation was that he was planning an armed operation against a public place in New York with IS,” Haroon’s lawyer, Tariq Assad, said.

Haroon, who is from Pakistan’s southwestern Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, reportedly left the U.S. two years ago to join his parents, who have been in Pakistan for the past few years.

A father’s petition

The court ruling came in response to a petition filed by the suspect’s father, Haroon Rashid, who also is a U.S. citizen, and asked the High Court to overturn a lower court recommendation in January that Haroon be extradited to the U.S. under an extradition treaty between the two countries.

Rashid said his son was not involved in terror activities and that the allegations against him were “entirely concocted and false,” according to court documents.

“He is a young teenaged student and in the case of extradition, he may lose his life and career,” Rashid wrote in the petition, according to Pakistani media.

Haroon was arrested by Pakistani law enforcement agencies in September and put in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, near the country’s capital, Islamabad.  

He was reportedly lured by IS recruiters to carry out an armed operation in New York, hoping that he would evade surveillance because of his legal status in the U.S., his lawyer said.

“He was in Pakistan for the past years and they (IS) kept contacting him and he would communicate with them,” attorney Assad said. “But he did not have the intention to travel there (Syria or Iraq), nor did he want to carry out attacks.”

His lawyer argues that Haroon would receive a fairer trial in Pakistan.

“If he is extradited, his life can be in danger because of the false charges. He should be tried here to determine the truth,” Assad said.

Pakistan often criticized

Pakistan has come under frequent criticism from U.S. lawmakers over its inability to curb homegrown militancy. The government is facing threats of increasing diplomatic isolation from some U.S. lawmakers over its failure to counter the threat the Pakistani militancy poses to its neighbors.

Pakistan accuses U.S. lawmakers of diplomatic theater, saying the harsh anti-Pakistani rhetoric belies its government’s efforts to root out extremism. Pakistani officials deny that IS has a foothold in the country.

Analysts say the Pakistani government had a two-month window to extradite Haroon before the High Court’s ruling.

According to the extradition treaty, an extradition request can be challenged if one side fails to surrender a suspect within two months of a court ruling.  

Pakistani officials or the U.S. State Department did not respond to a VOA request seeking comment.

Pakistani lawyer Ahmad Raza Kasuri told VOA that the court acted according to the constitution and the law.

“Even if the Pakistan government would want to make an exception for a foreign country with which they are treaty-bound, it may not do so because the matter is in the court,” he said.

Pakistan through the years has surrendered high-profile fugitives including Ramzi Yousef, convicted for his part in the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing, and several al-Qaida leaders.

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