Raleigh, N.C. — A European judge has ruled that a man arrested in Kosovo last week will not be extradited to the U.S. to face charges that he aided a suspected terrorism ring in the Triangle.
Bajram Asllani, 29, an ethnic Albanian and native of Mitrovico, Kosovo, was convicted of terrorism in Serbia and was under surveillance in his home country when he was arrested Thursday following an extradition request from the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He faces charges of providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure persons.
Judge Agnieszka Kolowiecka-Milar of the European Union Rule of Law Mission denied the extradition request, ruling that Kosovo doesn't have an extradition treaty with the U.S., according to Bulgaria-based FAN TV. Prosecutors were relying on a 2001 agreement between the U.S. and Serbia, but Kosovo has since declared its independence and isn't bound by that agreement, the judge ruled.
Asllani was released from detention on Friday with the promise to report to Kosovo police twice a week, Reuters reported. Asllani told a Kosovo news service that he wanted to be extradited to the U.S.
"The politics are complicated. A lot of people are paying attention to it," said Robert Jenkins, director of the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "I think the key is that, from a legal standpoint, the waters are kind of muddied. Who has jurisdiction? It won't be simple or smooth which one has priority."
An April 19 criminal complaint unsealed last week alleges that Asllani, who also goes by Ebu Hattab, conspired with eight men charged last July with plotting terrorist attacks overseas and securing weapons and training in North Carolina.
Seven suspects – Daniel Patrick Boyd, 39, his sons, Dylan Boyd, 22, and Zakariya "Zak" Boyd, 20, and Hysen Sherifi, 24, Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 22, Ziyad Yaghi, 21, and Anes Subasic, 33 – are being held in the U.S. An eighth suspect, Jude Kenan Mohammad, 20, is believed to be in Pakistan.
Daniel Boyd and Sherifi are also charged with planning an attack on the Marine base in Quantico, Va.
The criminal complaint alleges that Asllani was in contact with the Triangle-area suspects, asked them for money and helped them travel with the purpose of establishing "a base of operations in Kosovo for the purpose of waging violent jihad."
Asllani denied the allegations in an interview with FAN TV.
"I never distribute any material related to terrorism, because I am a man that do not support terrorism," he said. "Never in my life I have killed someone. You can ask any citizen of Mitrovica or through all Kosovo. I can answer that with my life."
Court documents say that the FBI and state authorities had been monitoring the Triangle-area suspects since 2006 as they looked for a way to attack non-Muslims and perhaps also Muslims of whom they didn't approve. At various times, the documents say, Daniel Boyd and Sherifi mentioned dying as a suicide bomber in Afghanistan or fighting in Iraq, Syria, Palestine or Chechnya.
Sherifi became acquainted with Asllani during a July 2008 trip to Pristinia, Kosovo, documents say. Investigators believe that Asllani recruited Sherifi to help him establish a community in Kosovo in order to launch attacks in the region.
"They could use such a town as a safe haven for their families and to store weapons," the criminal complaint says.
Once he returned to the U.S. in 2009, Sherifi is accused of getting the Boyds' help to raise $15,000 intended for Asllani. Documents say that Sherifi also practiced military tactics with the father and son, and Daniel Boyd told him he intended his weapons to be used in Kosovo and the U.S.
"If I will be someone to asked or collect the funds, it will be for my home," Asllani told FAN TV. "I will never ask for funds for spending for something that is nothing."
Daniel Boyd said he wanted for himself and his sons to go with Sherifi to Kosovo, and Sherifi sent money to Asllani for travel documents, the criminal complaint says. The North Carolina men were arrested before they could leave.
The criminal complaint also alleges that Asllani sent Sherifi recruitment documents. One such document cited was a video of a suicide bomber attacking a U.S. convoy of vehicles.
U.S. authorities said that Asllani was placed under house arrest by Kosovo law enforcement in 2007 and then kept under surveillance. In September 2009, a Serbian court convicted him in abstentia on terror-related charges and sentenced him to eight years in prison.
Asllani maintained in the interview that Serbia convicted him without evidence and that his name has been manipulated by others.
The U.S. Justice Department, State Department and government of Kosovo assisted the investigation by the FBI and North Carolina Information Sharing and Analysis Center. A judge with the European Union's Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo approved the arrest of Asllani and a search of his home.
The trial for Sherifi, Daniel Boyd and the other Triangle-area suspects was recently delayed until September 2011 as lawyers comb through 750 hours of FBI recordings, the records on two dozen computers and 29,000 pages.