Wife of former US pilot complains of Australian treatment

Feb 12, 2023, 10:16 AM | Updated: Feb 13, 2023, 12:48 am
FILE - In this image made from video, Dennis Miralis, lawyer for former U.S. military pilot Daniel ...

FILE - In this image made from video, Dennis Miralis, lawyer for former U.S. military pilot Daniel Duggan who the United States accuse of illegally training Chinese aviators, speaks to the media outside the court in Sydney, on Jan. 10, 2023. Miralis, on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, says that government agencies in Australia and the United States had been reticent to hand over documents critical to Duggan's defense.(Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP, FILE)

(Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP, FILE)

SYDNEY (AP) — The wife of a former U.S. military pilot accused by the United States of illegally training Chinese aviators said Monday her husband was being held in inhumane conditions as he fights extradition from Australia.

Saffrine Duggan said her husband Daniel Duggan had already been kept 115 days in a “tiny cell” in Sydney’s Silverwater Correctional Complex because of U.S. charges that had yet to be heard in court.

“He is suffering the harshest possible prison classification in Australia as an ‘extreme high risk restricted inmate’ despite having no prior (or current) convictions,” she said in a statement.

“This is unprecedented and an affront to Australia’s rule of law and manipulation of the Australian legal system by the United States, at the expense of the Australian taxpayer,” she said.

Having already filed a complaint with Australia’s Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Saffrine Duggan said a further complaint would be filed with the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

“The manner and circumstances behind this prosecution of Dan are something you would expect to find in an authoritarian country, but not in a democratic Australia where its citizens expect a more fair and balanced equal application of the law and the overriding principle of a ‘fair go’ for all,” she said.

Daniel Duggan, 54, was arrested in October last year near his family home in Orange, in New South Wales state, and was accused of providing military training to pilots working for China.

He has denied the allegations, saying they were “political” posturing by the United States, which unfairly singled him out.

His wife said the treaty under which the FBI had attempted to extradite her husband was not being used properly.

“The treaty specifically states that alleged crimes under its provisions should not be of a ‘political character,’ should require dual criminality — which is not the case in this instance — and should be in Australia’s national interests,” she said. Dual criminality means illegal in both Australia and the United States.

The case is proceeding through Sydney courts where a magistrate will decide whether the husband is eligible for extradition. A hearing is scheduled for March 20.

Daniel Duggan’s lawyer, Dennis Miralis, told reporters outside Sydney’s Downing Center Local Court on Monday that Australian and U.S. government agencies had been reluctant to hand over documents critical to Duggan’s defense.

“Regrettably, to date, we haven’t been getting the cooperation that, in our view, would be essential to ensure that Mr. Duggan’s rights are properly protected,” Miralis said. “Government agencies, perhaps unsurprisingly, are refusing to produce documents on the basis of secrecy provisions.”

Born in Boston, Duggan served in the U.S. Marines for 12 years before immigrating to Australia in 2002. In January 2012, he gained Australian citizenship, choosing to give up his U.S. citizenship in the process.

A 2016 indictment from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., was unsealed late last year. In it, prosecutors say 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 about 88,000 Australian dollars ($61,000) and international travel from another conspirator for what was sometimes described as “personal development training.”

The indictment says Duggan traveled to the U.S., China and South Africa, and provided some training to Chinese pilots in South Africa.

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Wife of former US pilot complains of Australian treatment