US judge weighs in on fate of insurgent

Urges Dutchman get 25 years in jail

By Nedra Pickler
Associated Press / April 16, 2009
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WASHINGTON - A federal judge yesterday encouraged the Netherlands to impose a 25-year sentence on an Iraq war insurgent who admitted to conspiring to kill American troops, while acknowledging the actual time he'll receive is beyond US control.

US District Judge Paul Friedman indicated he would approve the sentence agreed to as part of a plea deal with Wesam al-Delaema, who videotaped himself and others showing off roadside bombs they said they would use to kill Americans. Delaema, a 36-year-old born and raised in Fallujah who became a Dutch citizen as an adult, is the first insurgent from the Iraq war prosecuted in US courts.

Delaema was extradited from the Netherlands two years ago in an agreement that said he would be tried in federal court - not by a military commission, such as those set up for terror suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Under the deal, he also must be returned to the Netherlands after sentencing, where a Dutch judge will decide how much time he should serve under their system.

Friedman allowed both sides in the case to present lengthy evidence so that the Dutch judge will have a record to review. Law enforcement officials from Amsterdam were in the courtroom monitoring proceedings, which lasted six hours yesterday and were to continue today.

The prosecutors aired about three dozen clips from the large video collection that Dutch authorities took from Delaema's home when he was arrested. They included videos of insurgent attacks in Iraq and the key to the case - a video taken with night-vision technology late on October 30, 2003.

That video shows Delaema and his fellow "Mujahideen from Fallujah" showing off bombs buried in the sand along the road outside Fallujah. They wore hoods to hide their identities and pray they will kill US troops.

"Today, with God's help, and if the Americans enter, we will hit them with timed mine by way of remote," Delaema says on one, according to a translation from Arabic.

Prosecutors said it's impossible to know whether the bombs on Delaema's video were detonated or killed any Americans. But they note that within the next 10 days, four Americans were killed in two roadside bomb explosions in the area.