More details emerge on arrest of "bin Laden's man in Sweden"

Oussamma Kassir, photo: CTK

More details have emerged about the arrest in Prague on Sunday of a person described by the Swedish media as "Osama bin Laden's man in Sweden." The man, a 39-year-old Swede of Lebanese origin, is now in custody awaiting a decision on whether extradition proceedings can begin against him.

Oussamma Kassir, photo: CTK
According to the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes the man is Oussamma Kassir, a 39-year-old Lebanese man who emigrated to Sweden as a teenager in 1984. He's now wanted by the FBI for terrorist offences. The US authorities say he's suspected of trying to set up an al-Qaeda terrorist camp in the U.S. state of Oregon in 2002. The Oregonian newspaper wrote that he arrived in the village of Bly carrying money, poisons and computer disks with instructions on how to make bombs. So obviously the US authorities are very keen to get their hands on him.

Mr Kassir was on a Czech Airlines flight from Stockholm to Beirut, where he hoped to be reunited with members of his family. The plane had a brief stopover in Prague, and as soon as he stepped onto Czech soil he was approached by members of an elite police unit and a balaclava was placed on his head before he was led away.

Mr Kassir is not wanted by either the Czech or Swedish authorities; he was exonerated of terrorist related offences after a trial there in 2003. It's the US that wants him. He can't be extradited from either Sweden or Lebanon because he has both Swedish and Lebanese citizenship, and like most countries neither Sweden or Lebanon extradite their own citizens. But he can be extradited by the Czech Republic. Petr Dimun is the spokesman for the Czech Justice Ministry:

"When someone is placed in extradition custody, the country that has issued the international arrest warrant has 40 days in which to file an extradition request. The request is examined by the appropriate court, and if the court decides the person should be extradited, the final decision rests with the Minster of Justice."

Mr Kassir, however, maintains his innocence of all the accusations being made against him. Alongside the Oregon terror camp allegations, the British secret services claim he's closely associated with Haroon Rashid Aswat, accused of being the mastermind behind the July 7th bombings in London, and the U.S. have dubbed him "Osama bin Laden's man in Sweden".

He himself says he's never been to Oregon and has never met Aswat. He does, however, admit to being a great admirer of Osama bin Laden, according to a Swedish journalist who knows him well. It will of course be up to a court to decide whether he should trial for any of the allegations against him, but boarding a flight to Beirut via Prague could prove to be something of a mistake.