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Feb 25 2019

Turkey frees man U.S. charges with helping kill U.S. servicemen

Turkey has released a Turkish citizen wanted by the United States for his involvement in an attack that killed two U.S. troops in Afghanistan, U.S.-government funded news outlet Voice of America reported on Sunday.

When Germany deported Adem Yılmaz to Turkey earlier this month, Turkish authorities detained the Turkish national at Istanbul airport for two days before setting him free, his lawyer told VOA.

"There is no court case against Adem Yılmaz in Turkey since he never lived in Turkey before," said Michael Murat Sertsöz. "If they had not released him, that would have been a double punishment. It is not allowed for the same crime.”

Sertsöz  was referring to double jeopardy, a legal term in which a suspect convicted of a crime in one country cannot be tried again for the same crime in a different country.

In Germany, Yılmaz was part of a four-man squad affiliated with the Islamic Jihad Union, a group the United States designates as a terrorist group with ties to al-Qaeda. In 2007, three members of the group, including Yılmaz, were arrested with large amounts of explosives and charged with planning car-bomb attacks on U.S. targets in Germany.

"Had the attacks occurred, estimates show the casualty toll could have far exceeded the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, or the 2005 transport bombings in London," the U.S. Treasury Department said during Yılmaz’s 2008 trial, according to VOA.

In 2010, a German court sentenced Yılmaz to 11 years in prison.

The United States indicted Yılmaz in 2015 on charges of providing material support to a terror organisation. The next year U.S. officials requested Germany extradite Yılmaz to the United States, but the German court sought more information.

U.S. authorities intended to charge Yılmaz with recruiting Cüneyt Ciftci, a German citizen behind a 2008 suicide attack in Afghanistan that killed two U.S. servicemen, Guido Steinberg, a Middle East expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told VOA.

Last month, a Frankfurt court decided to reject the U.S. request to extradite Yılmaz. "To extradite him to face trial in the U.S. on terrorism charges would constitute double jeopardy under German law," said Gundula Fehns-Boeer, a spokeswoman for the Frankfurt state court.

Instead, Yılmaz, still deemed dangerous by German authorities, was deported to his native Turkey earlier this month, upsetting U.S. officials.

"The German government deliberately helped Yılmaz escape justice by placing him on a plane to Turkey,'' former acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement.

Robert Palladino, U.S. State Department's deputy spokesman, said in a press briefing that the United States has been in talks with Ankara about Yılmaz.

"Yılmaz is a convicted terrorist; he's charged with serious crimes by the United States. Two American service members were killed and 11 wounded as a result of a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan in 2008. And this bombing was facilitated by actions that Yılmaz took in support of terrorism," Palladino said. "The United States will never relent in its efforts to bring Yılmaz to justice.”

“We are gravely disappointed by Germany’s decision to deport a dangerous terrorist - Adem Yilmaz - to Turkey, rather than to extradite him to the United States to face justice for his complicity in the murder of two American servicemen,” acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement expressing the U.S. government's disappointment in the decision.

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