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Lawyers for former US military pilot Daniel Duggan have written to the US ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy and her Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd urging for the extradition of the father-of-six to be withdrawn.
Duggan, 54, an Australian citizen, has been in custody since October accused of training Chinese military pilots in South Africa in 2012 without seeking permission from the US Department of Justice – an allegation he denies.
Former pilot Daniel Duggan was arrested last year.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security confirmed in March a formal inquiry would be held into the circumstances of Duggan’s case, including the legality of his apprehension. Much of the probe cannot be discussed due to national security.
High-profile barrister Bret Walker, SC, has been briefed to appear for Duggan and will seek for the proceedings against him to be stayed pending the inquiry’s outcome. Duggan is also expected to apply for bail.
Duggan’s lawyer Dennis Miralis said on Thursday one aspect of the inquiry he was able to discuss was the possibility his client was “lured” back to Australia by being given an ASIO clearance, only to be “almost immediately arrested” when he arrived.
He said such a lure was not permitted under Australian law, which raised questions about the operation of the extradition treaty between Australia and the US.
Duggan’s lawyer Dennis Miralis speaks outside court last year.Credit: James Brickwood
In a submission to the federal parliament’s joint standing committee on treaties, Miralis wrote this week that the treaty in its present form “lacks sufficient human rights safeguards for Australian citizens whose extradition is being sought by the US”.
“In particular, the treaty fails to expressly prohibit the use of lures/subterfuge or the abduction/kidnapping of Australian citizens,” Miralis wrote.
He said on Thursday he had written to Kennedy, Rudd and the US Department of Justice to ask for his client’s extradition to be withdrawn until the inspector-general’s investigation concluded.
“We have not received a response to date, however we have informed the US ambassador as well as the US Department of Justice that we will be bringing that correspondence before the court in support of an application to stay the proceedings,” Miralis said.
Duggan’s wife Saffrine at the family farm in Orange with their six children.Credit: Monique Lovick
He said he had brought to Rudd’s attention that the case had the ability to affect US-Australian relations.
Miralis said it was possible for the US to withdraw the extradition request and make another request later if it deemed this necessary.
He said if the extradition was not withdrawn by May 1, when Duggan’s case was due to be mentioned in Downing Centre Local Court, he would seek a timetable for the stay application.
“The course that we are submitting should be undertaken is that the US should not have the right to continue pressing its proceedings in an Australian court until the IGIS independent investigation is properly concluded,” Miralis said.
He said his client was experiencing “acute mental distress” from being held in a high-security prison, and frequently mentioned his six children.
Last week, Duggan’s wife Saffrine separately wrote to Kennedy to ask for the extradition to be dropped, outlining the “catastrophic” and “debilitating” effects on her family.
“We simply don’t understand why the United States is in relentless pursuit of a man who served your country as a Marine, and is now an Australian citizen, over 11-year-old allegations put together by the Trump administration in 2017, and that Dan strongly denies,” she wrote last week. “Surely you agree that it must stop today.”
Mrs Duggan said the allegations hinged on “the disputed claim about training ‘military’ pilots without permission”, but “permission wasn’t needed because the trainees were civilians”.
“[S]uch an offence would ordinarily have a five-year statute of limitations,” she said. “And yet my husband remains in a maximum security prison in a clear abuse of his human rights.”
Duggan formerly operated Top Gun Tasmania, a business in Hobart offering scenic flights in fighter planes.
The case returns to court on May 1.
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