Adem Yilmaz, a dual Turkish German national, served 11 years in a German prison on various charges including planning to blow up the airport in Frankfurt. File photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The United States criticized Germany on Thursday for releasing a convicted Islamic extremist to Turkey instead of extraditing him to New York to face federal terror charges.
Adem Yilmaz, a dual Turkish German national, has been indicted by a US grand jury of conspiring to carry out a deadly attack on US forces in Afghanistan in 2008.
US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan raised the issue in Washington with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Ambassador Emily Haber. The Americans demanded that Yilmaz, also known as Abu Taha, be sent to the United States to face charges.
Yilmaz, instead, recently was deported to Turkey after serving 11 years on separate charges of planning a 2007 bomb plot with the Islamic Jihad Union in Germany. Yilmaz had received training on bomb making in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"We did exchange views," one German official told CNN, referring to the meeting between Sullivan, Maas and Haber. "We explained that the Federal Government cannot influence a court decision. In the end, a security decision had to be made. Most likely, the court would have freed the person yesterday due to the fact that the US has not provided the documents the court had asked for about nine months ago."
US Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker claimed that German officials "ignored our pending request to seek judicial reconsideration or review of a German court's recent decision to change the terms of our extradition treaty with Germany."
He said he was "gravely disappointed" with Germany's decision. Germany "has refused to take any responsibility for failing to extradite him to the United States, has flouted their treaty obligations and has undermined the rule of law."
Another German official said they were unhappy with the outcome, but ultimately it was a separation of powers issue.
"We don't like the outcome either, but it's up to the court to decide," a second German official told CNN. "It's very unfortunate. It's not the choice we would have made, but we have to follow the rule of law."
US officials are particularly upset that they were not given pre-notification of Yilmaz's release.
The Germans "screwed us," said one State Department official.
Yilmaz, born in 1979 in Turkey, has threatened to attack Ramstein Air Base in Germany and Frankfurt Airport.