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Cablegate: Syrians Refuse to Deport Accused Amcit Murderer

VZCZCXRO9320
OO RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHDM #5378/01 3411654
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 071654Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2586
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0263
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0194
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DAMASCUS 005378

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

PLEASE PASS TO L/NESA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL CASC ASEC SY
SUBJECT: SYRIANS REFUSE TO DEPORT ACCUSED AMCIT MURDERER
MUAZ HAFFAR


1. (U) This is an action request, please see paragraph 5.

2. (SBU) The Syrian MFA notified us by a dipnote (text
included below) received December 2 that the SARG has
rejected our request to deport Amcit accused murderer Muaz
Haffar (AKA to the Syrians as Omar al-Sawwaf). The dipnote,
dated November 21, and issued by the Consular Department at
the MFA, stated that the SARG has decided not to hand over
Haffar for trial in the United States. Instead, Syrian
authorities have decided that he will be tried in a Syrian
court. The dipnote stated that the decision "rejecting the
extradition" of Haffar, was made by the Criminal Extradition
Committee of the Syrian Ministry of Justice on November 9.
It stated that this person was a Syrian citizen, wanted by
judicial authorities in the U.S. for murder, and that there
is no bilateral agreement (extradition treaty) between the
SARG and the U.S. Consequently the SARG is refusing to turn
Haffar over. It also noted that the Embassy should inform
the "petitioning party" to consult with the Syrian court
which will conduct the trial, and to forward all the relevant
documents and the legal file to the First Attorney General in
Damascus, so that the Syrian authorities can proceed against
Haffar.

3. (SBU) Post received information from working-level
police contacts that Haffar had been arrested in Syria in
late October 2006 for some type of suspicious behavior
unrelated to the murder charges in the U.S. At that time,
Post formally requested consular access and Charge separately
demanded of our designated MFA channel in the Office of
Protocol that the SARG confirm that it had Haffar in custody
and respond to our request for consular access. He also
noted that the USG wanted the SARG to agree to deliver Haffar
to the U.S. law enforcement officials for trial in the U.S.
on the murder charges. (Note: We made the initial request
for the detention and deportation of Haffar in mid-August
2005, after being notified that he had fled to Syria in late
July to avoid facing murder charges in Cook County, Illinois.
We subsequently received a formal request for the
extradition of Haffar, which we transmitted the SARG. We
note that there is no extradition treaty between Syrian and
the U.S.)

4. (SBU) Although the Syrian dipnote refers to Haffar
throughout as Omar al-Sawwaf, an MFA official in the Office
of Protocol, Abdul-Latif al-Sabbagh confirmed to A/DCM that
the dipnote response was in fact referring to Muaz Haffar.
He was unable to explain why the SARG was using a different
name for the accused. (We presume Haffar, with a claim based
on his Syrian mother, applied for Syrian citizenship when he
fled here, and changed his name, possibly using his mother's
family name, although is unclear from the sparse information
the SARG has provided us.) Al-Sabbagh refused to answer
A/DCM's other inquiries -- whether we would be given consular
access, how we should proceed with the case, and how the
Syrians intended to try Haffar -- and requested that the
Embassy forward by dipnote any further requests for
clarification or information on the case.

5. (SBU) ACTION REQUESTED: In order to confront the SARG
expeditiously on its refusal to cooperate on the Haffar case,
Post proposes that we quickly respond to the MFA Dip Note,
requesting an early meeting to 1) express our objections, and
2) seek clarification on how the SARG plans to proceed. We
request Department approval for this course of action and
provide the following draft language for a dipnote we would
like to send ASAP.

PROPOSED TEXT:

-- The Embassy of the United States of America presents its
compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian
Arab Republic and has the honor to request the assistance of
the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic in the matter
detailed below.

-- The Embassy of the United States acknowledges receipt
December 1 of the Dipnote from the MFA's Consular
Directorate, number 64 (90/118) 13323, dated November 21,
2006, which states that the Syrian government will not turn
over Syrian citizen Omar al-Sawwaf and instead will try him
in a Syrian court. The Embassy received telephonic
clarification from the MFA on December 6 that the references

DAMASCUS 00005378 002 OF 003


to Omar al-Sawwaf in the dipnote are in fact referring to
American citizen Muaz Haffar. The Embassy would like to
remind the Syrian government that Mr. Haffar is an American
citizen and requests consular access to him pursuant to the
terms of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular
Access, to which Syria is a signatory.

-- The Embassy would like to note that it does not
understand the Syrian government's refusal to turn over
Haffar to the proper U.S. authorities, since he is an
American citizen, properly charged in a U.S. court with the
crime of murder. Haffar fled to Syria to avoid facing these
charges. The Embassy provided the Syrian government with a
copy of the arrest warrant for Haffar for murder, issued by
Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, in dipnote 558 of
August 10, 2005. The Embassy also requests that the MFA
Consular Directorate, and the appropriate Ministry of Justice
representatives, meet with the Embassy's Consul to discuss
this matter, and in particular to explain how the Syrian
government plans to proceed in trying Muaz Haffar in a Syrian
court. The Embassy would like to obtain clarification about
what the Syrian government means in its dipnote note of
November 21 that the petitioning party should consult with
the Syrian court that will conduct the trial, "in order to
demand its rights and prove its claims." The Embassy would
also like to seek clarification about what the Syrian
government means in stating that the Embassy should "forward
all the documents and hand over the file to the First General
Attorney in Damascus in order to activate the general suit
against Haffar.

-- The Embassy avails itself of this opportunity to renew to
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic
the assurance of its highest consideration.

END PROPOSED TEXT OF DIPNOTE.

6. (U) Translated text of the dipnote from the MFA included
below:

Syrian Arab Republic
Ministry of Foreign Afffairs
Consular Directorate
No. 64 (90-118) 13323
Date: November 21, 2006

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab
Republic presents its compliments to the Embassy of the
United States of America and has the honor to furnish the
Embassy with Decision No. 98, dated November 9, 2006, of the
Criminal Extradition Committee of the Ministry of Justice,
which rejects the extradition of Syrian citizen Omar
al-Sawwaf and decides to try him in a Syrian court.
The MFA would be grateful to the esteemed Embassy if it
advise the petitioning (prosecuting) party to consult the
court which will conduct the trial, in order to demand its
rights and prove its claims.

Attached: The above-mentioned decision

Syrian Arab Republic
The Ministry of Justice
No. 731-2006
Deputy of the Minister
63 Release 2006

In the name of the Arab people in Syria
Resolution No. 98-2006

Issued by the Criminal Handover Committee in the Ministry of
Justice.
The committee consists of the following Messrs.

1. Samir Bernbo Assistant to the Minister of Justice
-- Chairman
2. Hisham Zaza Head of the Criminal Court in
Damascus --Member
3. Mohamed Marwan Alloji First Attorney General in
Damascus -- Member
4. Samar Kaziha Report typist

In the wake of reviewing its decision No.-94-2006 which
includes the confirmation of detaining the Syrian Arab

DAMASCUS 00005378 003 OF 003


citizen, Omar Sawaf, his mother,s name is Mayada, born in
1984 as of October 18, 2006 who is wanted by the judicial
authorities in the United States of America for committing a
murder.

The incoming file of the restoration from the Foreign
Ministry, the Consular Directorate under the number 137 dated
October 12, 2005 and registered in the register office of the
Criminal Hand-over Committee number 575 for the year 2005.

Since the wanted person is holding the Arab-Syrian
citizenship and there is no judicial agreement between the
Syrian Arab Republic and the United States of America and in
accordance with the terms of Article No. 20 of the general
penalty law the following has been decided unanimously:

1. The refusal of the hand-over of the wanted named Omar
Sawaf, born in 1984, his mother,s name is Mayada, to the
judicial authorities in the United States of America.
2. Forward all the documents and the hand-over file to the
First Attorney General in Damascus in order to activate the
general suit against the wanted person who is subject of the
previous paragraph of this decision as a murder.
3. Inform the communication division.
4. Inform the First Attorney General in Damascus of the
content of this resolution for duly implementation.

The resolution issued on 10-17-1427 Hijri, and November 9,
2006


CORBIN

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