Former US military pilot’s lawyer tells Sydney court that extradition hearing should be delayed

SYDNEY (AP) — A lawyer for a former U.S. military pilot accused of illegally training Chinese aviators told a Sydney court on Wednesday that an extradition hearing scheduled for next month should be postponed due to delays in government agencies handing over crucial material.

Boston-born Dan Duggan was arrested by Australian police a year ago near his home in Orange in New South Wales state and is fighting extradition to the United States.

His lawyer, Dennis Miralis, told the Downing Center Local Court that the former U.S. Marine Corps flying instructor will apply to have the Nov. 23 extradition hearing delayed.

A magistrate will hear submissions on that postponement application on Oct. 23.

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Outside court, Miralis told reporters that the delay was regrettable because Duggan has been psychologically impacted by being held in maximum-security prisons since his arrest.

“However, at the same time, it’s absolutely essential that Dan’s right to a fair hearing is preserved and nothing is done to prejudice that right,” Miralis said.

“Regrettably it’s very slow. However, it’s absolutely crucial for us to get that material,” Miralis added.

Duggan, 55, has requested documents from government agencies including the national domestic spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organization, Australian Federal Police and the U.S. Justice Department regarding the allegations against him.

Miralis said the agencies have resisted handing over material to defense lawyers, citing secrecy concerns and the possibility of interference in international relations.

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Duggan’s legal team wants to view 2,000 documents relating to their allegation that he was illegally lured from China to Australia in 2022 to be arrested for extradition.

Miralis said police will not hand over all their material until Nov. 17, six days before the scheduled extradition hearing.

Duggan, who became an Australian citizen and gave up his U.S. citizenship, maintains he has done nothing wrong and is an innocent victim of a worsening power struggle between Washington and Beijing.

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Christopher Jessup, the regulator of Australia’s six spy agencies, announced in March that he was investigating Duggan’s allegation that the Australian Security Intelligence Organization was part of a U.S. ploy to extradite him.

Duggan returned from China to work in Australia after he received an ASIO security clearance for an aviation license. A few days after his arrival, the ASIO clearance was removed, which his lawyers argue made the job opportunity an illegal lure to a U.S. extradition partner country. They expect Jessup’s findings will provide grounds to oppose extradition and apply for his release from prison on bail before the extradition question is resolved.

Duggan’s grounds for resisting extradition include his claim that the prosecution is political and that the crime he is accused of does not exist under Australian law. The extradition treaty between the two countries states that a person can only be extradited for an allegation that is recognized by both countries as a crime.

Last month, the Australian government introduced in Parliament proposed tougher restrictions on former military personnel who want to train foreign militaries.

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In a 2016 indictment from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., unsealed in late 2022, prosecutors allege Duggan conspired with others to provide training to Chinese military pilots in 2010 and 2012, and possibly at other times, without applying for an appropriate license.

Prosecutors say Duggan received about nine payments totaling around 88,000 Australian dollars ($61,000) and international travel from another conspirator for what was sometimes described as “personal development training.”

Duggan has said the Chinese pilots he trained while he worked for the flying school Test Flying Academy of South Africa in 2011 and 2012 were civilians and nothing he taught was classified.

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