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Ana Maria Luca

A history of non-cooperation

Ali Mussa Daqduq

In January 2007 a group of armed men who spoke perfect English and wore US army uniforms made their way into the Provisional Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, Iraq, and attacked and killed an American soldier and took another four hostage. The hostages were eventually killed in captivity, and their bodies were found dumped on the side of a road. 


Two months later, in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, the British Special Forces captured two of the most wanted Shiite insurgent leaders in Iraq, Qais and Laith al-Khazali, the heads of the Asaib Ahl al-Haqq (AAH) faction, which split from Moqtada al-Sadr’s Al-Mahdi Army in 2004. The group, believed to be supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, was responsible for the Karbala attack and a series of kidnappings of coalition soldiers.

 

The British Special Forces then captured Lebanese Ali Mussa Daqduq, a Hezbollah commander believed to have been the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ man assigned to train the AAH militia. He was charged with masterminding the attack in Karbala and was detained in Iraq. Among the evidence collected by the British forces were videos of American soldiers who had been kidnapped and scanned copies of the contents of the wallet of one of the Americans killed in the attack.

In retaliation for the capture of their leaders, 40 AAH gunmen took five British citizens hostage in June 2007. Four of them were killed, and one was kept alive and released after Qais Khazali was freed from prison in 2009. The latter is now a politician in Iraq. Daqduq remained in detention while the US government unsuccessfully sought to move him to Guantanamo Bay. Ultimately the US government had to leave Daqduq in the custody of the Iraqi government because of agreements signed after the invasion.

 

A US Military Commission secretly charged him in February 2012 with murder, terrorism and spying. But last Friday, Daqduq walked free from his house arrest in Baghdad and travelled to Lebanon. This was a disaster for US authorities, as Lebanon has traditionally refused to cooperate with America in matters of intelligence and justice.

 

Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the State Department has made contact with the Lebanese government on this issue and will continue to pursue all "legal means" to bring Daqduq to justice.

 

Lebanese Minister of Justice Shakib Qortbawi told NOW that he hasn’t received any extradition request and that he hadn’t even heard of the case. “If the US Embassy asks for any extradition, they need to address it to the Foreign Ministry,” he said.

 

 

However, in order to go through, the request needs to be signed by the Lebanese minister of justice.

 

There is little chance that Daqduq will ever be extradited from Lebanon. Al-Balad newspaper commentator and Hezbollah expert Ali al-Amine said that Lebanese governments, whatever their political color, usually disregard extradition requests in general and those related to Hezbollah in particular. He noted Lebanese authorities’ lack of cooperation in handing over to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon the four suspects, all Hezbollah members, in the murder of former PM Rafiq Hariri.

“Based on what has been happening with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, it is clear that Hezbollah has a certain control over judicial authorities. The state authorities think a thousand times about an action that may disturb Hezbollah,” he said. On the other hand, he said, Lebanese state institutions neglect cases like Daqduq’s because they don’t see them as priorities, given that officials are usually busy with the political instability in the country.

 

Hezbollah has not made a statement to confirm or deny Daqduq’s membership in the Party of God and his activities in Iraq.

Former Future Movement MP Mustafa Alloush said that according to Lebanese law, Daqduq is already guilty of cooperating with a paramilitary group in a foreign country and theoretically he should be tried in Lebanon, whether he was involved in the attack in Karbala or not. “Theoretically this is what should happen, but the reality in Lebanon is different,” he pointed out.

 

Daqduq’s is not the first terrorism case that has brought the State Department to ask Lebanon to hand in suspects. In 2006, then-US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman filed an extradition request with the PM at the time, Fouad Siniora, for four Hezbollah members accused of hijacking TWA Flight 847 in June 1985.

 

But Siniora’s office released a statement saying, “Three of those wanted by the US have been pardoned under the General Amnesty Law, and one of them has already served his sentence. So it is not clear why the issue is still being raised.”

 

Another extradition request was submitted for Corporal Wassef Hassoun, a US Marine of Lebanese origin who was reported abducted in Iraq in June 2004 and later turned up in Lebanon. Following a five-month investigation into his disappearance from an American military camp near Fallujah, Hassoun was accused by the US of deserting. Lebanon also refused to hand him over.

“The source of power and effect in Lebanon is not constitutional institutions; though they are very important,” Amine said.

 

“Hezbollah has the power to keep under control anything that affects its strategic and security interests whether it is in the cabinet or not.”

 

Ana Maria Luca is on Twitter at @aml1609.

A US solider shows a picture of Ali Mussa Daqduq during a press conference in Baghdad, right after he was captured in Basra. (AFP Photo)

“Hezbollah has the power to keep under control anything that affects its strategic and security interests whether it is in the cabinet or not.”