Former American fighter pilot accused of illegally training Chinese airmen can be extradited to the United States, Australian judge says

A Sydney judge ruled Friday that former U.S. Marine Corps pilot Daniel Dugan he may be extradited to the United States under allegations he illegally trained Chinese airmen, leaving the attorney general as Duggan’s last hope to remain in Australia.

Magistrate Daniel Reiss ordered the 55-year-old Boston-born man to remain in custody awaiting extradition.

While his lawyers said they had no legal basis to challenge the magistrate’s decision that Duggan was eligible for extradition, they will make submissions to Attorney General Mark Dreyfus on why the pilot should not be handed over.

“I am confident that counsel will give us sufficient time to ventilate all the issues that, under the Extradition Act, cannot be dealt with in an Australian court,” Duggan’s lawyer, Bernard Collaery, told reporters outside the court.

Dreyfus’ office said in a statement that the government does not comment on extradition matters.

Duggan’s wife and mother of his six children, Saffrine DugganHe said the extradition court hearing was “just about ticking boxes”.

Former US Marine Corps pilot Daniel Duggan, who faces extradition to the United States for allegedly violating US arms control law after training Chinese pilots, poses for a photograph in this undated photograph.

Warwick Ponder/Handout via REUTERS

“We now respectfully ask the attorney general to look again at this case and bring my husband home,” she told a gathering of journalists and supporters outside the court.

Earlier this month, Duggan’s lawyer said in a legal filing that the pilot unknowingly worked with a Chinese hacker, Reuters news agency reported.

The pilot has spent 19 months in maximum security prison since he was arrested in 2022 at his family home in the state of New South Wales.

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

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

A highly regarded jet pilot, Duggan spent 12 years in the US Marine Corps, achieving the rank of major and working as a tactical flight instructor before emigrating to Australia in 2002. In January 2012, He obtained Australian citizenship and decided to renounce his career in US citizenship in the process.

The indictment says Duggan traveled to the United States, China and South Africa and provided training to Chinese pilots in South Africa.

Duggan has denied the allegations, saying they were U.S. political positions that unfairly singled him out.

Duggan worked for a company called Top Gun Tasmania, which advertised itself as Australia’s “leading adventure flight company”.

On the company’s now-defunct website, Duggan described himself as a “former US Marine Corps officer for over 12 years.” He flew missions in support of Operation Southern Watch from Kuwait and the USS Boxer, the website says.

“As a highly trained fighter pilot, he tactically flew Harrier jump planes from aircraft carriers around the world,” the website says.

AFP contributed to this report.

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